More than 20,000 junior doctors took to the streets in central London on Saturday to protest against government plans to impose a new contract.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says that Jeremy Hunt’s new proposals will mean a pay cut and an increase in anti-social hours for doctors, and young medics warn it may force them to leave the NHS.

Doctors say that the new contract, which demands a 40% increase in productivity, would stretch the NHS beyond breaking point. The BMA has also warned that it would create unsafe working conditions which would have a detrimental impact on patient care.

Hunt claims that the NHS does not offer a truly “seven-day-a-week” service, but doctors rebuke his claims and insist that emergency treatment is available through the NHS 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

In support of their claim that the NHS already provides a seven-days-a-week service, many protesters carried placards with the names of junior doctors unable to attend the protest because they were at work treating patients.

Discussions between the government and the BMA have deteriorated in recent months, with the BMA refusing to come back to the negotiating table if the government continues to try and impose the new contract without a thorough discussion and examination of the facts.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, said:

“Instead of genuine negotiations, the Government has insisted that junior doctors agree to recommendations without question.

“This is unacceptable and would not have allowed the BMA to negotiate over proposals we believe are unsafe for patients, unfair for doctors and undermine the future of the NHS.”

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