JUNIOR doctors have received back pay of £800,000 after a hard-fought battle against their trust regarding a contract breach.
Their union, the British Medical Association (BMA), said: ‘It brings to an end a two-year dispute in which the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust refused to accept that the excessive workload of 100 foundation year doctors – uncovered by its own monitoring – breached their terms and conditions.
‘The back pay was awarded after the trust agreed the trainees should have received a band-three pay supplement instead of the “1a” band they had previously received. ‘Trainees were informed of the rebanding following an appeal chaired by trust deputy medical director Julian Hobbs in July but payment was only made in December.
‘The rebanding is a significant victory for the doctors who were supported throughout by BMA industrial relations officers, employment advisers and lawyers.’ BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya said the case showed the importance of trainees flagging concerns about rotas with trusts.
He added: ‘Junior doctors often work long, often intense, hours. Cases like these demonstrate how vitally important it is for patient and doctor safety that trainees raise these concerns so that working hours can be properly monitored and rotas be made compliant. Also, so that where necessary, sanctions can be enforced where trusts have been found to be in breach of the rules.’
The union noted: ‘The BMA was alerted to the breaches by two separate groups of junior doctors in July 2016 and December 2016. The groups raised concerns after contractually required monitoring on their rotas indicated that they were not compliant because of the hours they had worked. Rota monitoring is carried out (under the terms of the 2002 junior doctor contract) by trusts to determine if junior doctors’ working patterns are safe and compliant.’
BMA Mersey regional junior doctors committee chair Mairi Thompson said the battle for rebanding had required much support from BMA representatives and staff. She said: ‘The trust resisted a quick resolution, which makes it difficult for trainees, as they’re very early on in their careers.’
For the groups, rota monitoring checks by the trust revealed they had worked more hours than their contract allowed and had not received breaks, as required by the new deal and European working time regulations.
The trust refused to settle the banding claims informally, forcing the BMA to lodge a case at the employment tribunal. This case was stayed when the trust finally agreed to the banding, which found in favour of both groups of foundation doctors.
The trust claimed the foundation year doctors had been instructed to take their breaks. But Dr Thompson described this as a ‘common argument’ levelled at junior doctors. ‘Everyone is aware they should. But when the workload is heavy it is not always possible and there isn’t always enough support staff around.’
She added: ‘We would advise anyone thinking that they are working over their hours – either individually or collectively – to keep records and follow up informal telephone calls with e-mails and have everything written.’