Dr Dan Poulter joins political opponents in compromise call over junior doctors' working hours
PUBLISHED: 18:34 24 April 2016 | UPDATED: 19:19 24 April 2016
Suffolk MP and former health minister Dr Dan Poulter has joined politicians from other parties to call for a delay in the introducing controversial new doctors' contracts.
He has joined his former LibDem colleague Norman Lamb, Labour health spokeswoman Heidi Alexander, and SNP health spokeswoman Dr Philippa Whitford to urge the government to trial the proposed new contract for junior doctors.
He said this would allow the government to establish whether it did ease the “weekend effect” which sees higher mortality rates for patients admitted at weekends.
Dr Poulter said that at present there was no evidence that the changes would solve the issue, and if there was a trial the government might be able to use an independent evaluation to make their case.
The letter says: “You will be aware that medical leaders, royal colleges and patient groups have said the imposition or unilateral introduction of the contract is the wrong approach and risks permanent damage to the future of the medical workforce.
“If it remains your intention to introduce this new contract, we believe it should be piloted in a number of trusts/across a number of deaneries and for its impact on patients, staff and the ‘weekend effect’ to be independently evaluated.”
But the Government said it had 75 meetings with the BMA and three years of talks, and delaying reform further would mean not taking an important step in improving weekend care.
A spokesman said: “We have always said that we want to introduce this contract in a phased way – for around 11% of junior doctors from August – precisely so any initial problems can be ironed out.”
Dr Poulter said these figures suggested the new contract would be imposed on newly-qualified doctors starting their first jobs in August.
He said that since signing the letter he had been contacted by several Tory colleagues who agreed with him that it was necessary to find a compromise.
He said: “The medical profession is not naturally militant on issues like this and we have to find a solution to this situation.
“Many of my colleagues have had visits from junior doctors, their parents or even their grandparents who are worried about the impact of the new contracts.
“That is not to say that the BMA is blameless either – but there has to be a way get the two sides more constructively engaged.”