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The letter: Royal Colleges attack Health Secretary over new contract proposals

Dear Mr Hunt,

We write as presidents of our respective medical royal colleges to express our very great concern regarding the proposals for the new employment contracts of doctors in training.

The proposals represent a real and immediate threat to the current stated priorities of the NHS, namely recruitment and retention of front line staff and the provision of services across seven days.

The consequences of the recent announcements have wide ranging implications on the future of medicine and patient care as a whole. If we are to strive to deliver innovative models of care, expand the delivery of care across seven days, increase NHS efficiency and continue to lead the world in innovation and research, we must support and value the people who are going to deliver this.

As currently proposed the new contracts would regard most evening and weekend work as normal time. This would act as a disincentive to recruitment in posts that involve substantial evening and weekend shifts, as well as diminishing the morale of those doctors already working in challenging conditions.

Amongst other consequences which are surely unintended, the proposed new contract would introduce financial disincentives for doctors who seek to gain additional experience prior to entering training in diagnostic specialties. Individuals may further encounter to undertaking research thereby depriving patients of the advantages inherent in such experience. This is in direct contradiction to the spirit of the Shape of Training review which seeks to introduce greater flexibility in medical training.

The ability of the NHS to recruit and especially to retain medical staff in front line services is already well documented. The proposed contract will further exacerbate this retention and recruitment challenge. We must find ways to attract doctors to these areas of care, not drive them away.

We would urge the government to create the conditions where both NHS Employers and the BMA can reopen dialogue and constructively work towards a contract that supports staff to deliver the best care for patients.

Whilst we recognise the current financial envelope, we would expect both parties to bring forward proposals which equitably address the needs of patients and support recruitment and retentions to all medical careers.

Failure to do so will regrettable demoralise our current workforce and leave providers ever more reliant on locum and agency staff.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Anna Batchelor, President of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine; Dr Liam Brennan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists; Professor Jane Dacre, President of the Royal College of Physicians; Dr Suzy Lishman, President of the Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Carrie MacEwen, President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists; Dr Clifford Mann, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine; Dr Giles Maskell, President of the Royal College of Radiologists; Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners; Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; Professor Frank Dunn, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow; Mr Ian Ritchie, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

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