In the news this week are contrasting stories; former NHS executive, David Flory is to receive a hefty termination payment, of £410,000, in addition to his annual salary of £235,000 while junior doctors are discussing strike action over proposals to extend their working hours while removing on-call payments resulting in pay cuts of up to 30% in some cases.
The ‘unusually large’ payment to David Flory, which flies in the face of Government austerity has been condemned by Unite as a ‘disgrace’ and by the GMB as ‘extortionate’.
Unite has also highlighted that this payment comes ahead of legislation before MPs which aims to cap all public sector payoffs at £95,000 before Christmas. Barrie Brown, Unite’s National Officer for Health added ‘The rationale for such a payoff is a mystery at a time when the NHS is faced with very real cuts to budgets and services.’
A former Clinical Director at Walsall Manor Hospital, David Drew who was dismissed in 2010 for raising patient safety concerns said ‘It shows there is austerity for everybody in the NHS except those in the upper inner circle, and it is all dressed up in terms of employment contracts.’
This payment contrasts with the pressure being brought to bear on junior doctors who are the backbone of the NHS. Their dedication, alongside nurses, ensures that patients receive round the clock care at anti-social hours. Removing payment for some overtime is likely to demoralise further staff working in an already squeezed sector. There are reports of a possible exodus of new recruits away from the NHS. These are people who already carry the heavy burden of debt from their student days and may turn to more lucrative careers outside of medicine. Doctors are already travelling overseas for better terms and conditions.
The proposed changes are being planned for implementation from August 2016. The BMA has spoken out against the new contracts saying that it is ‘bad for patients, bad for junior doctors and bad for the NHS’
Areas of medical practice which are likely to be particularly hit include acute medicine and general practice. In addition, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has warned that: ‘There is now a significant chance of returning to the ‘bad old days’ of over-burdened junior doctors in danger of giving sub-standard care. This is unacceptable. If left unchallenged, the proposals could significantly compromise safety and the lives of mothers and babies in England.’
These new stories come at a time when the Government is poised to enter into a consultation with lawyers over the fees that should be for representing patients injured during the course of medical treatment. The Government want to slash fees to an unsustainable level to save costs. The likely effect of this will be that highly experienced and specialist lawyers will no longer be able to represent some groups of injured patients. While that in itself may well save the NHS money, it will also remove Access to Justice for a large group of people and is likely to limit the opportunities for learning from patient safety incidents that these claims represent.
If you or your family have been affected by a patient safety issue or think that poor care may have resulted in an adverse outcome, contact our team of Medical Negligence specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892.