Junior doctors call on peers to engage with details of new contract
Authors: Abi Rimmer
Publication date: 31 May 2016
Junior doctors have called on their peers to read and engage with the details of the new terms and conditions agreed by the BMA and the government last month
On Friday 27 May, NHS Employers published the full terms and conditions of service for NHS doctors and dentists in training in England. On the same day, the Department of Health published an equalities statement for the proposed new contract.
The publications came after the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) announced on 18 May that an agreement on the contract had been reached between the BMA and the government.
Rachel Clarke, a second year core trainee in infectious diseases, said that the new proposals were an improvement on offers that had previously been made. “The BMA has made a lot of gains in terms of protections for junior doctors in this contract,” she said.
Clarke said that the new contract could “revolutionise” the way that doctors were treated at work but that junior doctors needed to engage with it. “It potentially gives us the capacity and the tools to make sure we are not exploited at work, but it really rests on us,” she said. “It requires us, ordinary grass roots junior doctors, to be assertive and stand up for ourselves, and put in the claims if we work excessive hours.”
“The big challenge is in the implementation,” she said. “Are we—front line junior doctors who have been galvanised, politicised, and energised by this whole dispute—going to carry on and make sure in its implementation that this contract really delivers? It comes down to us.”
Benjamin Fox, chair of the anaesthetists in training group at the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, said that it was important for junior doctors to read the detail of the contract before deciding if they would support it.
“Junior doctors should look through the contract themselves before they go on to social media and read the comments,” Fox said. “It is quite easy to be influenced by posts on there and, because it’s quite an emotive subject, it could lead to anger or panic.”
The BMA will hold a series of roadshows starting on 6 June to explain the new contract to members, accompanied by webchats for those doctors who are unable to attend.
The contract will then be put to a junior doctor vote. The referendum, which opens on 17 June will run until 1 July, the BMA said, and the result would be announced on 6 July.
All junior doctors in England who were members of the BMA and who would be employed under the national terms and conditions for doctors and dentists in training would be able to vote in the referendum. All medical students in England who are in their final and penultimate years and who are members of the BMA, would also be eligible to vote.
Last month the BMA came under scrutiny after the Health Service Journal published leaked conversations between members of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee executive group, discussing the ongoing contract dispute.
Steven Alderson, a second year core trainee in acute care common stem anaesthetics, said that the leaks displayed an “apparent gulf” between the association’s private and public statements.
“Many private comments appeared to relate to basic contractual issues—like pay or working hours—while members had been publicly campaigning on patient safety and the future of the wider NHS,” Alderson said.
“In this way, the conversations highlighted the way the contract dispute had become a lightning rod for wider extra-contractual concerns: the BMA may be focused on narrow terms and conditions, but few trainees were consciously striking over Saturday pay alone.”
Alderson said that the dispute had raised issues relating to basic training and employment —together with concerns that trainees were not valued or listened to. “At the moment, these concerns remain largely unaddressed,” he said.
Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers