Viewpoint: Hunt must change course on misguided junior doctor contract plans

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni was among 20,000 doctors who took to the streets in London on Saturday to protest over potential cuts to junior doctor and GP trainee pay.

On Saturday I attended one of the largest protests of doctors in decades. It demonstrated the palpable depth of anger throughout the medical profession and the public support that the BMA has for challenging health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s unfair and misguided policies on the junior doctor contract.

For me, the day started with a small personal drama. On the train to London, a child was unwell and an announcement was made for medical help. Six doctors turned up in 30 seconds - all heading to the protest.

We were able to help the child and solve the health problem (well, with six of us you would expect that!) and we got a lot of good wishes for the protest. This was an early indicator that this is not just an issue for the medical profession. It has resonated, partly owing to the BMA’s work, to the wider public.

Junior doctor protest

When I arrived at St Pancras I was welcomed by a pleasant lady encouraging protesting doctors - she was there representing patients. Throughout the march, attended by thousands of doctors, we received a huge amount of support from passers-by. It is clear also that Mr Hunt’s farcical attempt to suggest the BMA was mispresenting the junior contract issue hasn’t resonated with anyone.

The speeches at the culmination of the march were passionate and enthused, but the atmosphere throughout was peaceful and ultimately the key thing people kept saying over and over to me was they wanted fairness.

Everyone understands that the NHS needs to change. After all, the doctors on the march are those in the frontline of dealing with an NHS struggling under the weight of rising patient demand and falling resources. But the key theme was a desire for an equitable deal that is fair for junior doctors and improves patient care.

There were many GPs, consultants, SAS doctors, medical students and others on the march as well, joining with the public to get the message across that Mr Hunt needs to change course. The government needs to take note: its policies do not have the support of either the medical profession or the public.

  • Dr Kasaraneni is chairman of the BMA's education, training and workforce subcommittee chairman

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