• Don Berwick says government “should apologise” to junior doctors and impose three year “moratorium” on new contract
  • “You cannot achieve excellence in combat with your future workforce,” says former government adviser
  • Also says it may be “impossible” for NHS to deliver acceptable standard of care at current funding level

The government’s former adviser on patient safety, Don Berwick, has said it “should apologise” to junior doctors over the contract dispute.

Professor Berwick was the founding chief executive of the US based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and in 2010 was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

Don Berwick

Don Berwick

Don Berwick said the Five Year Forward View is ‘a terrific model’

In 2013 he was tasked by the prime minister with carrying out a review of patient safety in the NHS.

Speaking at King’s Fund event in London on Tuesday morning, he said the NHS had a “demoralised workforce” and needed to “find a way out” of the “mess” of the dispute over the new contract for junior doctors.

“You cannot achieve excellence in combat with your future workforce, it makes no sense at all,” he said.

“So you need to find a way to de-escalate… I think the government should apologise.”

“I don’t think there should be resignations, I think an apology is what happens when you learn that you made a mistake, that’s all.”

Professor Berwick said it would be an “act of generosity and courage” for the government to declare a “moratorium” on the new contract by saying “we’re going to hit the hold button for three years and figure our way back out of this”.

“I think the junior docs need to have some courage and generosity as well. They need to firmly embrace the Five Year Forward View. It’s a terrific model and they need to help invent it,” he added.

He said the moratorium would “create the space” for junior clinicians to feed in ideas about how the forward view could be implemented on the ground.”

Professor Berwick also urged the government to “reflect on the effects of austerity” on the NHS, and questioned whether it could continue providing care at an acceptable standard at its current level of funding,

“The government must reflect on the effects of austerity on the ability of the NHS to survive and thrive,” he said.

“I know no nation that is seeking to provide healthcare at the level that western democracies can at 8 per cent of GDP, let alone 7 or 6.7. That may be impossible.”

“It’s very crucial that your government reflect on whether it has overshot on austerity.”