latest health care news

05.10.16

BMA urges trust CEOs to pause junior doctor contract as roll-out kicks off

The BMA has written to all NHS trust chief executives in a last-ditch effort to pause the introduction of the new junior doctor contract, set to be rolled out from today for obstetrics and gynaecology ST3 doctors.

The union’s junior doctor committee chair, Dr Ellen McCourt, said today marks a “watershed moment” for the health service, with doctors being moved onto contracts “which they have rejected”.

“It couldn't come at a worse time, as a recent BMA study found that almost half of junior doctors are looking to move overseas, given their morale is at an all-time low,” she added.

“As the government ploughs ahead with the contract, ignoring the outstanding areas of concern raised by junior doctors, many hospitals trusts may feel they have little choice but to rush to implement the new terms and conditions.

“A great deal of preparation is required for the new contract to be put in place, but very little time has been allowed for this, due to the government's politically imposed deadline.”

According to Dr McCourt, a “number of trusts” have decided not to start using the contract in October. The BMA is therefore calling on all other trusts to hold off on the roll-out “if any of the required arrangements are not in place”.

“Introducing a new contract requires major systemic change and will affect a generation of junior doctors. It is vital for the time to be taken to get it right, rather than rushed, for no other reason than to meet a political timeline,” she argued.

Dr McCourt has led the junior doctor workforce through the long-running dispute with the government ever since the previous committee chair, Dr Johann Malawana, resigned in July. She promised to “continue to fight” contract imposition and announced in August a “rolling programme of escalated industrial strike action”.

In early September, junior doctors called off a planned five-day strike action, and later in the month suspended the remaining five-day strike threats. Shortly thereafter they faced defeat in the High Court as Mr Justice Green ruled in favour of health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Despite today’s contract roll-out, the BMA is still urging junior doctors to write to their trusts’ chief executives requesting a delay in the framework introduction. The union also provided an email template to send to HR directors if doctors choose to notify them that they “do not want to accept the 2016 terms and conditions” and that they are “working under protest”.

In FAQs published online, the BMA said that junior doctors are allowed to choose whether or not to accept the new contract, which will be introduced when their existing contracts expire. But “the reality of this for a junior doctor in the NHS is that they would have to either accept the new terms or not to have a job”, the union said.

In an editorial published in the British Medical Journal, Neena Modi, professor of neonatal medicine and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, called the contract “damaged goods” and said it should be “discarded and replaced with one drawn on a clean sheet”.

But a Department of Health spokesman urged all bodies to “move on from this dispute to the crucial job of making sure patients get the same high standards of urgent and emergency care every day of the week”.

Learn more about the full implementation timeline for the new contract here.

(Top image c. David Wilcock, PA)

 

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