Junior doctors protest outside Downing Street over 'unsafe and unfair' contract changes

Young medics took to Westminster last night calling for a halt to controversial contract changes.

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of junior doctors descended upon Downing Street yesterday evening to protest against changes trainee contracts.

The proposed changes which will force young medics to work longer hours for no extra pay, have been branded "unsafe and unfair" for both patients and doctors by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Wearing scrubs, stethoscopes and holding placards with messages such as 'don't make us leave' and 'tired doctors make mistakes', the trainee's marched around Westminster before amassing at Downing Street.

Harriet Hall, a medical student at the protest told The Independent: "it was really encouraging to see so many people coming together to show the government that we can't and won't accept these changes. The overall message was 'save our NHS'".

The peaceful protest involved chants such as 'make us tired, make us stressed, this is how you kill the NHS' and 'not safe not fair' as many lined up against the gates of downing street to ensure their voices were heard. 

Many critics of the scheme have predicted an exodus of young doctors, who may be tempted to move abroad for more pay, less hours and better working conditions. 

We asked Ms Hall if she would be tempted into moving away: "Yes, I would be tempted to move back to my native Wales or Scotland."

The contract changes will result in longer and more unsocialable hours, making it difficult for part-time doctors to qualify and an overall cut of 30% on trainee wages.

However for some protesters, the issue is not pay.

Ms Hall said: "The most worrying and upsetting part of this contract is that it removes financial penalisations for hospitals who overwork their doctors, and cuts breaks ,so doctors can work up to 11 hours with only a 20 min break, It is incredibly dangerous to have overworked doctors running the NHS, and will put patient safety at risk." 

Harrison Carter, a member of the BMA medical students committee said, "what this is doing is creating another financial burden on already financially insecure people. It is not the case that Junior Doctors earn a lot of money, a basic salary is £23,000."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has attempted to avert strike action by inviting the Head of the Medical Students committee, Johann Malawana, to talks.

Mr Malawana is seen video above declaring "without the staff there is no NHS, and that might be what they want, but that's not what we're gonna allow".

The evening's demonstration coincided with meetings held by NHS employers on the proposed changes, but it was cancelled due to Jeremy Hunt's proposed talks with the BMA.