Speaking in the House of Commons on the 25th of April 2016 on the Junior Doctors Contracts.
Those of us who have served our time as junior doctors understand the hard work and very long hours that they do in a system that has had too few doctors since its inception. Many of us believe that there is no dispute about pay and conditions that justifies putting patients’ lives at risk.
There has been some confusion about what the Government have meant by a seven-day NHS. There has always been a seven-day emergency service, but it is too patchy across the country, which needs to be addressed. That is different, however, from a seven-day elective service, which simply cannot be achieved by doctors alone and requires bacteriologists, haematologists, and radiographers. Might my right hon. Friend get the Government’s case to be more clearly defined in future so that we know what we are trying to achieve? There is little difference between what the Government and doctors want, notwithstanding the fact that the BMA has behaved rather badly.
My right hon. Friend is right; the tragedy here is that what the Government want, which is to eliminate the weekend effect, whereby there are higher mortality rates for those admitted at weekends, is exactly what every doctor wants. We should be sitting around the table discussing how we can achieve a proper, consistent, seven-day service for urgent and emergency care. When it comes to elective provision, that is not part of our plans, although some trusts are operating elective care on a seven-day basis—that is their choice. We are trying to reduce the higher mortality rates for weekend admissions, and that will be at the heart of our vision for a true seven-day NHS.