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New junior doctor contract unfair and unsafe

Published 15/09/2015

The UK government recently attempted to force junior doctors across Northern Ireland to accept new contracts despite concerns over the impact on patient care and doctor safety. However, people who don't work in the health service are probably not fully aware of the impact this new contract would have had on their hospital care.

The health service is experiencing huge pressures in many areas as demand increases year on year. We need to find ways to improve the service and this proposed contract would not have helped with that to say the least.

Among other things, the proposed changes would see the removal of vital safeguards which discourage employers from making junior doctors work dangerously long hours, risking both patient and doctor safety.

I am sure no-one wants to be treated by a doctor who is performing at anything less than their best and, put simply, doctors need rest to perform effectively. Everyone does. To provide the best care we can for patients, we already have to stay late, we work through breaks, and despite current safeguards, we still hear of junior doctors working days on end or 90-hour weeks.

Junior doctors at the British Medical Association recently voted not to re-enter contract negotiations with the UK government, as there was an insistence that the BMA accept all recommendations without question by mid-September. We simply could not negotiate over proposals we believe are unsafe for patients, unfair to doctors and undermine the future of the health service.

We want a contract from the UK government that is good for patients, fair for doctors and good for the health service. The reality is, our contract has the potential to impact on everyone in Northern Ireland.

Dr Conan Castles

Chair, BMA Northern Ireland junior doctor committee

Belfast Telegraph

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