HCSA took part today in an emergency TUC conference debate called to discuss the Junior Doctors dispute. Association representative Dr Paul Donaldson delivered the following contribution to delegates in Brighton.
"As a union representing senior hospital doctors across the UK, HCSA has watched with mounting concern at the unravelling of relations between the government and our junior colleagues.
"Our members, hospital consultants and specialists, have continued to provide excellent care as negotiations have given way to industrial action. If further strikes go ahead, we will again fill the gaps in care.
"Our members have mixed feelings about strike action. We have always defended the right to strike, yet in our role as clinicians we are obliged to put patients first in everything that we do.
"But our members do understand the anger among juniors.
"We are a dedicated profession – dedicated to patients, our NHS and the health and welfare of the population.
"All doctors would prefer to be discussing how to deliver excellent care rather than mounting pickets. So it is a tragedy that juniors have become so desperate that they could see no alternative than to take strike action.
"Doctors are being asked to bear the burden of wider seven-day services through working more antisocial shifts. This will have an inevitable impact on their health and well-being and in particular on women, who are more likely to work part time.
"In the current context of underfunding and resource pressures, the notion of a safe seven-day service is unsustainable.
"You can only spread a workforce so thin. Stress and low morale are already rife among doctors.
"The breakdown in relations between junior doctors and the government threatens to land a further damaging blow on the well-being of staff and, ultimately, the quality and safety of patient care.
"So, as senior doctors within the NHS, we urge policy-makers to listen to us.
"Work to defuse not inflame the current situation. Listen and act on resource concerns. Reverse plans to impose this contract.
"Collaborative action not crude imposition is the way forward. Let’s get round the table and talk."