Junior doctors at Whipps Cross ‘asked to work unpaid’

Royal London Hospital, where doctors at Whipps Cross were invited to work overtime (credit ClippednPinned/Wikimedia Commons)

Anger at leaked email inviting NHS staff to volunteer for overtime shifts, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

The NHS trust running Whipps Cross Hospital has been accused of trying to “blackmail” junior doctors into working for free to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health Service Journal reported that an email sent to staff at the Leytonstone hospital provoked outrage by suggesting junior doctors could do voluntary shifts at the Royal London Hospital, another of the East London hospitals run by Barts Health NHS Trust.

The email reportedly asked if doctors could work “voluntary or paid” overtime and when signing up for extra shifts to “state whether or not they want to be paid”.

Doctor’s union Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) slammed the email as “antagonistic” and a “clear case of emotional blackmail”. Emma Cox, chair of the junior doctors’ committee, said HCSA fears such treatment “will fuel the departure of a generation of young doctors once the pandemic is over”.

She 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.”

A Barts Health spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the trust is currently facing “significant pressures” and that all staff “are going the extra mile to provide the best possible care”.

They said: “We are routinely 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. 

“In some cases, staff choose to volunteer without payment and their choices are respected.”