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Camden News - by TOM FOOT
Published: 17 July 2008
Sleep-in protest over junior docs’ free digs

HUNDREDS of medical students and junior doctors from across the country are to stage a sleep-in protest at Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town, on Friday over plans to axe their free accommodation.
All hospitals have been ordered to charge first-year graduates for hospital accommodation that used to be free.
The demonstration follows a protest outside University College London Hospital (UCLH) last month.
Cash-strapped medical students at UCLH say the changes amount to a 20 per cent pay cut that would hit trainees from poorer backgrounds.
UCLH medical students’ committee rep Victoria Nowak said: “This comes at a time when medical student debt is at its highest. This is a national issue and the sleep-in at Cecil Sharp House is the centre of the protest. We are expecting hundreds to turn up.”
The British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, said junior doctors starting in August have average debts from student loans of around £21,000.
Ms Nowak said MP Frank Dobson had met with UCL medics about the changes.
Trainee doctors have relatively low earnings in their first year – about £24,000 – because they were entitled to free accommodation in their hospital.
Foundation trusts are under no obligation to listen to orders from government. As autonomous institutions, they can over-ride orders from central government and could continue to offer free accommodation.
UCLH is set to demolish a student accommodation block inside the 99-year-old Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Huntley Street.
But a spokesman for the UCLH foundation trust, which normally houses 40 medics training at UCLH medical school, said: “The new national directive only affects first-year junior doctors who would previously have had their accommodation paid for. The directive came into force from August 2007, but the trust opted not to implement it until August 2008. In previous years all UCLH first-year junior doctors have been offered free accommodation in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital (EGA) and less than half took up the offer.
“As a goodwill gesture to help those doctors moving to London for the first time, this arrangement will continue until the closure of the EGA at the end of October when UCLH will comply with the national directive along with the rest of the NHS.”
Ms Nowak, who lives in Holloway Road, said: “It’s a shame because the first year of being a junior doctor is stressful – there is a lot of responsibility.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health in England said free accommodation was “archaic and unnecessary” because students no longer had to remain on constant call and did not have to live near the hospitals.

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