Junior doctors at Lincoln County Hospital have said they will consider moving abroad as news broke that the government will impose its new contract on the profession.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the decision to MPs in the House of Commons on February 11, after the government’s chief negotiator Sir David Dalton advised ministers to do “whatever necessary” to end the deadlock.
Talks between the government and the British Medical Association failed, with the union rejecting a deal on Wednesday, February 10, as junior doctors were in the middle of their second strike inside a month.
Doctors walked out in protest at Hunt’s proposed changes to their contracts, especially over what constitutes unsociable working hours.
Hunt told the Commons: “He (David Dalton) has asked me to end the uncertainty for the service by proceeding with the introduction of a new contract that he and his colleagues consider both safer for patients and fair and reasonable for junior doctors.
“I have therefore today decided to do that.”
Francis Kynaston-Pearson, a junior doctor at Lincoln County Hospital, said that he was “absolutely devastated” and “crestfallen” at the news.
“In no other profession could you impose a contract unilaterally – it’s a tyrannical decision and the government has launched its nuclear option.
“Some people have already resigned, are considering resigning or emigrating abroad to a country where doctors are treated better and not portrayed as lacklustre money-grabbers.
“Even if you don’t accept what doctors are saying and agree with the Department of Health, the idea of imposing a contract and making an entire workforce disillusioned is counter-intuitive.
“We need a compromise here as the alternative is a disaster.”
Junior doctor Tom Smart, who is also a local BMA rep, added: “Personally, I was thinking of going to work abroad and Jeremy Hunt’s decision has now confirmed it for me really.
“Countries like Australia, Canada, America and South Africa are well known for having a better work-life balance and this contract being imposed on us will only make the work-life balance here worse.
“If this happens, it would be unbearable for the NHS and it would undoubtedly threaten its existence.
“The government has never acknowledged the key issue which we have of spreading a smaller workforce even further.”
Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “The government’s shambolic handling of this process from start to finish has totally alienated a generation of junior doctors – the hospital doctors and GPs of the future, and there is a real risk that some will vote with their feet.
“Our message to the government is clear: junior doctors cannot and will not accept a contract that is bad for the future of patient care, the profession and the NHS as a whole, and we will consider all options open to us.”