Labour called a Commons debate today (28th October) on the dispute over junior doctors contracts, just as junior doctors are today protesting in the centre of Leeds.
In the Commons I took the opportunity to highlight the Leeds protest during the debate and to express my support for hard-working local doctors, as Labour MPs urged the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to step back from his plan to impose a new contract and to instead deliver a contract which will be safe for patients and fair for junior doctors.
I also sent the following statement of support to the organisers of the Leeds protest, which you can read below:
Congratulations to everyone involved in organising the Leeds Junior Doctors protest.
I'm sorry that - due to being down in Parliament for the debate that Labour has called on Junior Doctors' contracts - I can't be with you. I am with you in spirit, however, and I wanted to express my support for all the Junior Doctors and for your supporters from amongst your fellow health staff, from trade unions and professional associations and from service users, hospital patients and their families, who rely upon your services.
There are around 1,200 junior doctors working for NHS Trusts in and around Leeds - and many more from across the region supporting the protest.
I was born in a Leeds hospital - St. James's - and, like so many in our community, hope to be a beneficiary of our local health service from the cradle to the grave.
I want to thank you for all the work that you do: working day-in, day-out, night-in, night-out - long stressful hours making life-saving decisions.
It's simply not right that the Conservative Government's approach to you has been aggressive, hostile and unreasonable. This dispute is not about delivering a 'seven day health service', as the Government claims. We all know this already exists in our hospitals. This dispute is about the Government's attempts to worsen working conditions and introduce reductions in pay. And, what is more, the Government is attempting to impose these changes without agreement - ignoring the very reasonable concerns of NHS staff.
There is a pattern in the Conservative Government's approach to our public services.
Whether it is our health service, the fire service, education, or local government, valued professions are facing new, more difficult working conditions, and are facing a long-term pay freeze which has become a real-terms pay cut. And, of course, doctors such as yourself are facing an actual pay cut.
This is further evidence of the Conservative Government running our vital public services into the ground.
I therefore support the decision by the Junior Doctors Committee of the BMA not to bow into the Government's unreasonable and aggressive approach but to instead ballot members for industrial action. It is sad that without this it's clear that the Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will persist with his unreasonable and unfair approach.
We must make clear to the Conservative Government that they do not have the right to run our health service into the ground.
We must make clear to them that they should do the right thing and reach agreement with staff and staff representatives.
Congratulations on taking a stand today and throughout your dispute - you have my full support.