Junior Doctors Ballot For Action

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JUNIOR doctors across England are to be balloted by the BMA over industrial action in response to the government’s plans to impose a new, vicious, longer hours, wage cutting contract on junior doctors from August 2016.

The decision was taken on Saturday at a meeting of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, during which Dr Johann Malawana was elected as the committee’s new chair. Last month the BMA’s UK junior doctors committee rejected the government’s attempts to force through a new contract over fears for patient and doctor safety, and opted not to re-enter contract negotiations.

The decision was made after it became clear that junior doctors would not be able to negotiate over proposals the BMA believes are unsafe for patients, unfair to doctors and undermine the future of the NHS.

Rather than work with junior doctors to address their concerns the government has confirmed that it will impose a new contract on doctors in training from August 2016. In order to re-enter negotiations, the junior doctor committee is demanding that the government and NHS Employers withdraw their threat to impose a new contract, and that they provide the following concrete assurances:

• proper recognition of antisocial hours as premium time

• no disadvantage for those working antisocial hours compared to the current system

• no disadvantage for those working less than full time and taking parental leave compared to the current system

• pay for all work done

• proper hours safeguards protecting patients and their doctors.

Newly elected BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Johann Malawana said on Saturday: ‘Today’s decision is a reflection of the anger felt by the thousands of junior doctors who have told us that the government’s position is not acceptable. The BMA has been clear that it wants to deliver a contract that protects patient safety and is fair to both junior doctors and the health service as a whole.

‘We can only do this if the government is prepared to work collaboratively in a genuine negotiation. Unfortunately, they have chosen to ride roughshod over the concerns of doctors with their threat of imposition.

‘Instead of proper negotiations, the government has insisted that junior doctors accept recommendations made by the DDRB (doctors and dentists pay review body) without question. This would not allow the BMA to negotiate over proposals we believe are unsafe for patients, unfair for doctors and undermine the future of the NHS.

‘The contract they want to impose will remove vital protections on safe working patterns, devalues evening and weekend work, and make specialties such as emergency medicine and general practice less attractive even though the NHS is already struggling to recruit and retain doctors to these areas of medicine.

‘We’ve already seen reports of high numbers of doctors considering leaving the NHS to work abroad. These figures should serve as a serious wake-up call to the government that there is a real risk that junior doctors will speak with their feet. To lose a large swathe of doctors in the early stages of their careers would be a disaster for the NHS.

‘We have been clear. Junior doctors are not prepared to agree contract changes that would risk patient safety and doctors’ wellbeing. This has been our position all along and, in the absence of any attempts by the government to address our concerns, remains our position today.’