New Junior Doctors’ Contract Negotiations

Junior doctors in a mass sit-down protest outside Downing Street in 2016. Hunt’s imposed contract is now up for renegotiation
Junior doctors in a mass sit-down protest outside Downing Street in 2016. Hunt’s imposed contract is now up for renegotiation

THE BMA (British Medical Association) announced at the annual junior doctors committee meeting on Saturday that it is participating ‘in a collaborative review and bargaining process to improve the imposed 2016 contract’.

This came as junior doctors made it clear they are determined to end exhausting working conditions that threaten both their health and patient safety. BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya told delegates at the Birmingham Conferences & Exhibition Centre: ‘Today, I am announcing our participation in a formal, collaborative review and bargaining process to improve the imposed 2016 contract.

‘After lengthy discussions with national leaders, whilst we will remain in dispute over the unilateral introduction of the contract, we will take part in the 2018 review to make changes wherever they are needed – as equal partners. ‘The final agreed deal will then be put to our members in a referendum. ‘We have been strong, we have been constructive – and now our voices will be heard.

‘It has not always been easy, but I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved. In many areas we have forced genuine change, change that will affect thousands of lives for the better – and for which we have to fight on. ‘This dispute has shone a light onto the working lives of junior doctors, and we have used that attention to drive for change, including in areas outside the contract itself.

‘We have worked collaboratively with NHS Employers to produce comprehensive and positive guidance on good rostering as we committed to do at our talks with ACAS back in 2016. ‘This will ensure employers honour both the spirit and the letter of the safeguards in the 2016 contract that we fought for. This guidance requires them to take steps to minimise fatigue, value LTFT (less-than-full-time) and NROC (non-residential on-call) doctors, and make use of new, more effective rostering technology.’

He went on to say: ‘We have helped to improve flexibility in our application systems, supported trainees when those systems have failed them as they did with medical ST3s and reviewed the inadequate ARCP (annual review of competence progression) process. ‘We ensured better enforced notice periods for new jobs and rosters, and our lobbying has led to £10m of investment into projects to support trainees returning to the clinical environment after time away for any reason.

‘We have helped to improve access to study budgets which will remove thousands of pounds of personal costs to trainees, protected the simplicity of the current system and access to aspirational courses. These changes mean more money goes into your training, and less into trusts’ bottom lines.

‘We all know that this is a profession and an NHS worth fighting for. But, the BMA’s junior doctors careers survey earlier this year revealed that more and more doctors are taking time out of training – or even considering their long-term future. ‘Burn-out, wellbeing, and taking non-training posts in other countries are the main reasons, and we need to take action to tackle all of these. The NHS simply cannot survive if it continues to haemorrhage the talented, hard-working and innovative staff it is currently losing.

‘Too often we feel like a cog in the machine – like we are not valued for the work we do and the humanity we provide every day on the frontline in hospitals and GP practices that sometimes seem more like battlefields than places of care. ‘During the coming year we will continue to do everything we can to encourage the prioritisation of training, pastoral care and the wellbeing of doctors.

‘It is often demanded that doctors provide the best, bespoke care but we are seldom given the same treatment.

‘We are trying to reintroduce humanity back into the system via the huge amounts of ongoing work around bullying and harassment, widening participation and ensuring that time and resources are available for the senior doctors who are responsible for our training.’

He added: ‘In several areas of the country, thanks to our union and the hard work and diligence of BMA staff and representatives, junior doctors have won back pay that they were owed in banding appeals. Through the role of the guardian of safe working and the system of exception reporting, a crucial safeguard for every single one of us, we can see change happening.’

In his concluding remarks, he said: ‘Nationally, political decisions and chronic underfunding must be opposed; contractual arrangements must be improved and serious action on workforce recruitment and retention taken.’