A joint campaign has recently been set up by Sussex and Brighton University students to support junior doctors in their quarrel with the Government over contract changes.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s new contract will make changes to how much junior doctors are paid for working different hours in different settings, especially overnight and at weekends.
It also addresses the government’s desire to expand urgent and emergency medical care offered by the NHS at weekends by 2020.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has opposed it, saying: “We urge the government not to impose a contract that is unsafe and unfair. We will resist a contract that is bad for patients, bad for junior doctors and bad for the NHS.”
Mr Hunt acknowledged, when speaking in the House of Commons two weeks ago, that “it does represent a reduction com- pared to current [salary] rates, necessary to ensure hospitals can afford additional weekend rostering”. He has consistently said it will improve care at weekends.
On 11th February, following long-term disagreements between Mr Hunt and BMA, Mr Hunt announced that he would unilaterally impose it.
He said in his speech to the House of Com- mons that “a negotiated solution is not realistically possible”.
In response, the BMA has called a series of further strikes. The three strikes are scheduled to begin on Wednesday 9 March, Wednesday 6 April, and Tuesday 26 April. They will all start at 8am.
Sussex and Brighton Students Save the NHS (SABS Save the NHS) has applied to become an official Students’ Union campaign at both universities.
The campaign’s aim is to “promote and protect our National Health Service as free, fair, public run, high quality and comprehensive, which operates in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of ourselves and the general public.”
Neil Calderwood, a medical student and the spokesperson for the group, told The Badger: “The group is a collaboration of students across the Universities of Sussex, Brighton and the medical school, in order to raise awareness of NHS issues and support its patients, staff and principles of being free, fair, publicly run and continuing to deliver high quality healthcare.
“We are supporting junior doctors against the imposition of the new unsafe contract and with student nurses against cuts to their bursaries. We are also campaigning against broader NHS cuts and privatisa- tion.”
Neil set up a facebook group to discuss organising the “SABS Save the NHS” campaign and held an open meeting on 17th February.
On February 10th, the last strike day for the junior doctors, SABS Save the NHS organised “a gathering in solidarity with jun- ior doctors and student nurses” after going to the picket line.
Jake, a Brighton student who is part of SABS Save the NHS, told this journalist: “after the strike junior doctors along with medical students took to the streets to talk to the public about the government’s failure to negotiate their contracts. Attitudes from the public seemed strongly sym- pathetic to the junior doctors. I heard many commenting to the junior doctors on their fears over government policy on the NHS”.
Freya Marshall Payne