Royal medical colleges have urged all junior doctors to exercise their vote on the outcome of contract negotiations.
They also call for a measured – rather than knee jerk – response from trainees, following months of dispute over the contract.
The eleventh hour re-negotiation of the contract – hosted by Acas – brought agreement between the BMA and the government.
Over 120 junior doctor contract roadshows have now taken place from 6 to 17 June across England explaining the proposed contract, and juniors and final year medical students have until 1 July to vote on whether to accept the contact.
On 16 June NHS Employers released the final terms and conditions of service for junior doctors in England.
The BMA highlighted two elements of significance for those working on less than full time (LTFT).
The first is an amendment to the weekend allowance for LTFT trainees, so that it is paid pro rata and will be based on contribution to the rota. This is to ensure that LTFT trainees are not disadvantaged by the lower limit on the weekend allowance.
Then there is the addition of a pay premium of £1500 for LTFT trainees at the time of transition, or those who are on maternity leave at the time of transition and subsequently return directly to an LTFT post.
The president of the Royal College of Physicians – Prof Jane Dacre – suggested she would vote ‘yes’ if she were still a junior but with the caveat that there are challenges that still need to be worked through.
Dr Clifford Mann, president of the RCEM, agreed. He said: “This contract is not the final point in the journey, but the new contract can provide a starting position to build from.”
Mann said the college has argued long and hard that current terms and conditions have ill-served high acuity, high intensity specialties in general and emergency medicine in particular.
The college welcome a number of principles established in the renegotiated contract. These include recognition that weekend working is not simply a matter of remuneration but frequency and the consequent impact on work/life balance.
Furthermore, limits on consecutive nights and weekend frequencies similarly address key weaknesses in the current contract. And, a sensible definition of night shifts enabling staggered starts and finishes.
Mann said: “This is a key vote and will determine both the content and tone of the discussions relating to the challenges facing emergency medicine in the UK for many years. The compromises made by both sides will inevitably be criticised but the College has welcomed many of the principles established for the first time in this contract.
“Resolution of the dispute would provide the best opportunity in a generation to address the non-contractual issues which have blighted post-graduate medical education for too long.”
Prof Dacre added: “The medical royal colleges, Health Education England and NHS England are now really focusing on how to improve things by recognising the need to work more effectively together. “We must all work together to better support trainees to balance clinical responsibility with education and training, to resolve the significant rota gaps that are present in wards and hospitals across the country, and to provide the entire health and care system with sufficient resources to meet the needs of patients.”
Read more on Dacre’s views.