Health Service Focus

08.10.15

Junior doctor contracts dispute timeline: key events

  • July 2013: Junior doctors under ‘intolerable pressure’ – BMA
    Negotiations begin for a new contract for junior doctors after feedback showed that some were being forced to work excessive and unsafe hours. The BMA was to enter formal talks with NHS Employers to develop the new contract for doctors and dentists in training.

  • October 2014: BMA walks away from doctors’ contract negotiations
    Contract talks for consultants and junior doctors were stalled after the BMA walked away from negotiations over “government demands that could have jeopardised patient and doctor welfare”. It said negotiations were stalled because of inadequate safeguards against excessive working hours and that the government had been “increasingly focused on achieving political priorities”.

  • November 2014: Government asks pay review body to look into doctors’ contracts
    The government asked an independent pay review body to consider recommending changes to consultant and junior doctor contracts. This marked the first step in a process that would allow the government to unilaterally impose the body’s recommendations on the medical workforce.

  • December 2014: Plans for seven-day NHS care could ‘threaten patient safety’
    In its submission to the DDRB (Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body) on consultant and junior doctor contracts, the BMA reiterated its general support for seven-day services, but called for adequate safeguards around working hours and patient care.

  • January 2015: Consultants must lose their evening and weekend 'opt-out' – NHS Employers
    NHS Employers urged an end to the veto that it claimed allowed consultants to “name their price” for working out-of-hours, and asked for major changed to the junior doctors’ contract. It said the new deal was no longer fit for purpose and claimed pay needed to be fairer and more consistent, with an end to the “exceptionally complex” banding system.

  • July 2015: The DDRB submitted its contract reform report to the government
    The independent pay review body submitted recommendations and observations on the proposals put forward to reform contracts for both doctors and dentists in training and consultants.

  • August 2015: Junior doctors vote against re-entering ‘unacceptable’ contract negotiations
    The BMA’s junior doctor committee voted not to re-enter negotiations with NHS Employers, claiming that the offer was “unacceptable”. The committee claimed that the government’s position on the DDRB’s recommendations would extend routine working hours from 60 per week to 90 and remove “vital” safeguards.

  • 18 September 2015: Reality is revised contract to be given to all junior doctors – NHS Employers
    NHS Employers said that it was “disappointed” with the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee’s decision not to re-enter negotiations but said a new contract would be imposed regardless. It stated that the government’s timetable was “clear” and the contract would be rolled out from August 2016.

  • 22 September 2015: Junior doctor contracts in Wales will remain unchanged
    The Welsh government and the BMA agreed to scrap proposals for a new junior doctor contract, instead retaining the current contract. The same was decided for Scotland.

  • 23 September 2015: Fears of junior doctor exodus after dramatic spike in CCPS requests
    The General Medical Council revealed it had been receiving almost 30 times more requests from doctors seeking certificates to work abroad than normal, suggesting ta risk of exodus if the new trainee contracts were imposed by the government. The BMA voiced the possibility of the trainees “speaking with their feed” amidst an “outpour of anger” over the governmental decisions to impose a contract.

  • 28 September 2015: Junior doctor meetings postponed, as Hunt invites BMA to talks
    NHS Employers postponed all of the meeting it was to hold with junior doctors over changes to their contracts after the health secretary invited the BMA to discuss the plans. The organisation was going to hold a series of nationwide meetings to engage with trainee doctors about proposals to update job contracts.

  • 29 September 2015: Junior doctors protest at Westminster against ‘unsafe’ and ‘unfair’ contracts
    Thousands of junior doctors took to Downing Street to protest against the government’s decision to impose a new contract despite widespread opposition. It is estimated that two to five thousand protesters were outside Westminster Hall during the evening.

  • 06 October 2015: ‘Surge’ in junior doctors joining BMA after contracts row
    There was an increase in junior doctors joining the association after the heated row over changes to contracts. In the week after the BMA’s junior doctor committee took the decision to ballot its members over the government’s actions, more than 5,400 members joined the union.

  • 08 October 2015: NHS Providers urges junior doctors to talk to Hunt over fresh assurances
    NHS Providers urged doctors to respond “positively and collaboratively” to a letter from the health secretary delivering a series of new promises that ensured the “great majority” of trainees were going to be “at least as well paid as they would be now” under the new contract.

  • 19 October 2015: Thousands of junior doctors take to the streets in second anti-contract rally 
    Thousands of junior doctors took to Waterloo Place to protest for a second time against the government's decision to impose a new contract. It hoped to serve as a wake-up call to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s threat to force a new contract onto trainee doctors despite claims that it is unsafe and harmful to both doctors and patients.

  • 22 October 2015: Junior doctors strike action ballot to open 5 November 
    Thousands of junior doctors took to Waterloo Place to protest for a second time against the government's decision to impose a new contract. It hoped to serve as a wake-up call to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s threat to force a new contract onto trainee doctors despite claims that it is unsafe and harmful to both doctors and patients.

  • 26 October 2015: Labour to stage debate to press for U-turn on junior doctor contracts 
    The Labour Party called an Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons to urge the government to drop plans for the new junior doctor contracts and re-enter negotiations with the BMA.

  • 29 October 2015: 'Small minority' of junior doctors will lose money with new contract, Hunt admits
    Health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that a small minority of trainee doctors will lose money as a result of the government's new contract, despite guaranteeing just hours earlier that no doctor would see their pay cut.

  • 04 November 2015: Junior doctors urged to re-enter talks as Hunt polishes contract
    Trainee doctors were urged by healthcare bosses and groups to re-enter negotiations after health secretary Jeremy Hunt came forward with a polished offer, including an approximately 11% increase to basic pay – but the BMA claimed his offer still held a threat of imposition.

  • 18 November 2015: Hunt makes final appeal to BMA as junior doctor strike ballot closes
    Jeremy Hunt wrote to the BMA just as its ballot on junior doctor strike action, put forth after multiple failed talks between the association and the government, was set to close, claiming he was prepared to negotiate anything about the current pay proposal.

  • 19 November 2015: More than 98% of junior doctors vote to strike
    A staggering 98% of junior doctors voted for a strike in the BMA ballot, while more than 99% of them supported 'industrial action just short of a strike'. The BMA also revealed it had approached Acas to offer conciliatory talks with the health secretary to clarify 'conflicting information' coming from the government.

  • 26 November 2015: Junior doctors and Jeremy Hunt in talks to avert strike action
    Conciliation talks between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health have resumed in an attempt to avert next week’s strike action.

  • 30 November 2015: Junior doctor strike action ‘almost inevitable’ - BMA 
    This week’s strike action by junior doctors is now ‘almost inevitable’ the British Medical Association (BMA) has stated.

  • 01 December 2015: Junior doctors’ strikes called off as Hunt lifts threat to impose contract 
    Junior doctors have called off three days of planned strike action after the government agreed to temporarily suspend the threat to impose a contract without agreement.

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