• Barts Health asks junior doctors taking on extra shifts to state whether they want to be paid
  • Medical union describes the move as “emotional blackmail”

London’s largest acute trust has been accused of ‘emotional blackmail’ by suggesting junior doctors could do voluntary shifts in its ‘really short staffed’ critical care unit.

In an email cascaded to all junior doctors at Whipps Cross Hospital, run by Barts Health Trust, hospital medical director Heather Noble said day and night shifts at another trust site, the Royal London Hospital, “really need cover”.

She said doctors could work overtime through a “voluntary or paid shift”, and that if they made contact, should “state whether or not they want to be paid”.

Doctors working at the trust who received the email, who wished to remain anonymous, described the email as “tone deaf” and “not the right way to incentivise anyone to do what they want”.

One medic said: “There has been a lot of anger generated by this correspondence amongst junior doctors. People already working antisocial and demanding rotas are very unhappy about being asked to work more hours for free.”

HSJ understands reaction to the email, which was sent on Friday, resulted in a change in hospital messaging.

Emma Cox, chair of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association’s junior doctors committee, said: “Junior doctors have faced unique disruption during this pandemic, affecting training and rotation, and often still find themselves having to fight exhausting battles to be properly paid for the work they are doing.

“It is clear trusts are under intense pressure from the top not to spend, but requiring people to opt in to receive payment for gruelling extra shifts is a clear case of emotional blackmail. This is the kind of antagonising approach which HCSA fears will fuel the departure of a generation of young doctors once the pandemic is over.”

A spokesman for Barts Health Trust said: “We are facing significant pressure from high covid-19 infection rates and non-covid winter demands, so we have asked staff to take on additional shifts. Staff in all services are going the extra mile to provide the best possible care to our patients.

“We are offering extra benefits to staff who give up their time to take on additional shifts to care for our patients. Staff working outside their contracted hours will be paid bank rates or given time in lieu, and those redeployed within their contracted hours will be paid their regular salary in line with their contracted arrangements.”