Thousand of angry doctors protested in Belfast, Nottingham and London today, furious at the terms of their new contract. The BMA and the Department of Health have been at loggerheads for months after negotiations broke down earlier in the year. Both blame each other for not getting back around the negotiating table.
If Jeremy Hunt thought that his claims this morning on the Today programme would placate doctors, he will be sorely dissappointed. In London, 20,000 protesters repeatedly chanted “BMA! BMA!” vociferously supporting their trade union committee, and its leader, Dr Johann Malawana. Attending the protest with his family, Dr Malawana asked Jeremy Hunt to: “Stop lying. We’re not the enemy. We just want a meaningful discussion.” Dr Malawana’s comments were restrained compared to many; on several occasions, doctors called for the resignation of Jeremy Hunt, branding him a “disgrace” and “a liar”.
Dr Malawana was far from the most prominent figure to speak out against Jeremy Hunt at the event. Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander gave a well-received speech in which she called junior doctors the “backbone of the NHS”, and called out Jeremy Hunt for “punishing staff for his own mismanagement of the NHS.”
Prominent NHS activist Harry Leslie-Smith said he was “proud to stand alongside junior doctors, as this fight is just and necessary,” and asked why the government could afford to subsidise multinational corporations but not pay its doctors properly. In comments made before his speech, Mr Leslie-Smith said he was: “over the moon at the turn out,” but couldn’t understand why the Government was acting “so clearly against the wishes of its citizens.”
Smaller but no less passionate was the gathering in Nottingham. Close to 300 people made their voices heard in the city centre, with doctor’s children and colleagues standing in for those with work commitments. Oliver Giles, a third year medical student, said the day: “represented a call to action against the proposed contract. The people of Nottingham certainly heard our voice and have gained an uncensored insight into our thoughts, instead of the Government’s spin.”