The chair of the BMA junior doctors committee has urged trainees to vote on the re-negotiated contract before 1 July describing it as “a good deal despite unbelievable odds”.
After the government said it would impose a contract, a series of strikes and an intervention by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges led to eleventh hour re-negotiations that produced a deal.
Dr Johann Malawana said: “We were strong enough to make the government listen, to withdraw one red line after another, and to win for our members a number of significant improvements on those original plans – pay for all work done, a robust means to safeguard working hours, and financial recognition of weekends.”
He added: “It’s now time to vote, and I urge all eligible junior doctors and medical students to do so. I know our members hold different views, but what I think is beyond argument is that we are only in a position to have anything to offer them because we stood up, together, for what we believe in. I think we have delivered a good deal despite unbelievable odds.”
Over the last two weeks, the JDC has visited more than 130 hospitals in England to explain the contract details.
According to the BMA, the key improvements for junior doctors are: Recognition of junior doctors’ work and contribution across every day of the week; Proper consideration of and provision for equality in the contract, with concrete support, including targeted accelerated training and pay protection for parents and carers; Improved flexible pay premia for specialties – such as A&E and psychiatry – to address the current recruitment and retention crisis in these areas; and, more rigorous oversight of the new guardian role to ensure safe working for junior doctors.
However, anti-government sentiment is still strong among junior doctors and many believe the new contract will be rejected in the referendum.
Highlighting the challenges that have faced junior doctors over the past year during the contract dispute, he urged doctors to remain united to protect the future of the NHS.
Dr Malawana took the opportunity to criticise the government in his key note speech to the BMA’s ARM.
He said: “We have a government in denial over NHS funding. We cannot allow the government to continue hiding under a veil of bogus claims and risible targets.
“A government in denial is a threat to the health service. They were in denial over the right of junior doctors to a fair contract, they are still in denial over their hopelessly vague, un-evidenced promise on seven-day services, and they have always been in denial over the funding of the NHS.
“The government should learn from the last year that problems which are ignored tend to get bigger, and they don’t come much bigger than the £22 billion deficit faced by the health service.
“On this issue and every other, we should speak with one voice, because that voice will be louder and impossible to ignore.”