The junior doctor at the heart of an escalating row over NHS strike action has warned that the imposition of a new contract could lead to a collapse in morale and an exodus of staff.
Ellen McCourt, chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, said that the health service, which faces the looming prospect of Brexit and an ageing population, was already “chronically understaffed” and that the proposed changes risked pushing the service to breaking point.
“The biggest risk with this contract, and also with this dispute continuing, is that doctors will leave the NHS,” said McCourt. “You can’t stretch us more thinly. There needs to be a plan – how are we going to make medicine more attractive to people? How are we going to make people stay in the NHS?”
The BMA announced on Wednesday that it would begin an unprecedented five-day walkout by junior doctors later this month, with further five-day strikes proposed for each month in the run-up to Christmas. Earlier this summer, 58% of doctors rejected a compromise contract deal backed by the then BMA junior doctor leader, Johann Malawana. He has since resigned and been replaced by McCourt.
The strike announcement has divided the medical community, provoking criticism from Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which brings together doctors’ professional bodies. Many within the BMA are also concerned about the impact the action will have on patients and there have reportedly been ferocious exchanges at meetings where the proposed action was discussed.
Full story in The Guardian 3 September 2016