Junior doctors are threatened with GMC referral for refusing locum work

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  29 Aug 2017


Some NHS trusts are being too heavy handed in enforcing the new junior doctor contract, the BMA has warned, after juniors at one trust were found to have been threatened with referral to the General Medical Council for refusing to take on locum work.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, told The BMJ that several trusts around the country had been “misinterpreting” a clause in the new junior doctor contract requiring trainees to initially offer the spare hours they wish to work as a locum to an NHS staff bank.[1]

Wijesuriya said that he had recently asked University Hospitals Birmingham NHS trust to retract briefing notes sent to doctors suggesting that juniors may be referred to the GMC if they do not take on locum work.

The BMA is also unhappy that diktats have been issued without agreement from joint local negotiating committees, which the 2016 contract stipulates is required.

Implementation of the new contract began last October. NHS Employers said that the vast majority of the 42 000 doctors in training who are eligible to move to the new contract have now done so. Those remaining will be moved to the contract by October 2017.

Wijesuriya told The BMJ that the locum clause had been misinterpreted by a number of trusts.

“People are misunderstanding aspects of the contract,” he said. “We have just publicly had to challenge University Hospitals Birmingham because of its misinterpretation of the locum clause, and we continue to work with the trust locally to try to resolve this.

“That’s just one example of many, where either mistaken or deliberate misunderstanding of the new contract has been an issue.”

In a letter to Julie Moore, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS trust, sent in June, Wijesuriya asked the trust to retract the briefing notes that the trust’s management circulated to junior doctors. The notes suggested that junior doctors at the trust could be referred to the GMC if they did not abide by paragraphs 43-44 in schedule 3 of the new contract. These state that trainees who offer their locum services to an NHS staff bank can be released to locum at a different trust only when informed by the staff bank that they are not needed.

Wijesuriya said that the notes included “a number of inaccuracies and requirements that go beyond the stipulations of the clause as written in the [contract].” They also stated “that junior doctors may be referred to the GMC and their professionalism called into question if they do not abide by these requirements,” he said.

In his letter, Wijesuriya asked the trust to “clearly and immediately” explain to juniors that the circulated briefing note did not constitute an agreed policy and that it was retracted. He also asked Moore to “engage meaningfully with doctors’ representatives at the JLNC [joint local negotiating committee] to agree an acceptable local process for enacting the locum clause.”

He added, “This process must not include threats of GMC referral or anything else that goes beyond the requirements of the terms and conditions of service.”

The BMJ is awaiting a response from University Hospitals Birmingham. The BMA said that its discussions with the trust were ongoing.

References

  1. BMA. Locum clause—local process advice. 7 July 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer The BMJ

 arimmer@bmj.com

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: