Junior doctors are right to oppose a pay cut, but rather than focusing their energy on signing petitions for industrial action, they should be offering intelligent, sustainable alternatives, writes Edward Dyson

It’s unsurprising that junior doctors are angry with the health secretary about the prospect of a sizeable pay cut and are turning to the opposition for support. The anger, they say, is further fuelled when they see adverts for physician assistants who can command double the salary of a first year junior doctor.

The need to reduce the NHS trusts’ deficit (£822m per year and rising exponentially) is urgent if our health service is to remain sustainable in its current form or otherwise.

‘Locum doctors fill a void created by poor workforce planning’

Culling doctors’ out of hours supplements is one way of achieving this as this is funded by hospital trusts, whereas basic pay comes from a different pot - Health Education England.

However, the politically more appetising and economically more beneficial target are the locum junior doctors, employed by the hour, and in many instances earning in excess of £9,000 per month, even at a very junior level.

Need long term solutions, not petitions

These locum doctors represent poor value to the taxpayer as they are not on a path to become either a specialist or a GP. Instead they fill a void created by poor workforce planning.

Junior doctors are right to oppose a pay cut, but rather than spending their free time signing petitions in favour of industrial action (something they were vocally opposed to when it was the tube drivers’ pay in question), they should be offering intelligent alternatives to make the workforce sustainable in the long term.

Home grown physician assistants have the potential to increase training opportunities by taking on the mundane tasks and simultaneously reduce the dependence on costly, imported locum doctors.

We also need to await details of proposed contract changes prior to throwing their toys out of the pram, or they risk appearing commercial and compromising their strong bargaining position.

Edward Dyson is a trainee neurosurgeon at Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel