Junior doctors protest at loss of free accommodation

A protest in which junior doctors sleep in tents was launched at the BMA's Annual Representatives' Meeting (ARM) in Edinburgh this week.

The campaign has been started in response to the removal of free hospital accommodation being given to doctors in their first year of leaving medical school.

The charge is equivalent to a 20 per cent pay cut, said doctors.

Ian Noble, chairman of the BMA’s medical students’committee, said the move constituted ‘broken promises, dishonour and appalling judgement’.

He began the protest by sleeping in a tent on the evening after he made a speech to ARM.

The Welsh Assembly government has announced that free accommodation will continue in Wales.

The issue has arisen after the Medical Act was amended last year.  This removed the protection in law that housing should be provided to foundation year one doctors at no cost.

Mr Noble said that, given the rising costs of going to medical school, this latest burden on young doctors could prevent people from poorer backgrounds from entering medical school.

‘My colleagues graduating today are, on average, £21,000 in debt. Those following us and starting medical school today can expect to have debts of around £37,000,’ he said.

He said the predicted debt for future medical graduates was £57,000 or £67,000 for those studying in London.

‘With their refusal to discuss the issue of foundation year one accommodation with the BMA, the government has utterly let down every single medical student in this country,’ said Mr Noble.

Matthew Forbes, member of the BMA’s medical students’ committee, is to start work in a central London teaching hospital next month.

He said he would be charged £7,200 for a room on the hospital site.  Mr Forbes is already £35,000 in debt. 
‘I am going to struggle badly to pay for my living costs,’ he said.

‘This unilateral removal of hospital accommodation for foundation year one doctors without compensation or consultation, is disgraceful, inequitable and unacceptable.’

GPletters@haymarket.com

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