Hospital Dr News

Contract negotiations end over safety concerns

Negotiations on new contracts for consultants and junior doctors have broken down.

The BMA said the government is refusing to agree necessary safeguards to protect doctors from working dangerously long hours, compromising patient safety and doctors’ wellbeing.

After more than a year of negotiations with consultants, the government failed to produce any credible evidence on how to staff and resource the delivery of more seven-day services in a safe and sustainable way, the BMA claimed.

The government also failed to offer sufficient guarantees on safe working hours which are vital to protect patient safety, ensure that the quality of patient care isn’t compromised and to prevent burnout amongst consultants.

Similarly, after more than a year of talks with junior doctors, and despite 82% of junior doctors struggling with long hours, according to a recent MPS survey, the government wants to remove vital safeguards designed to prevent junior doctors from working dangerously long hours, without replacing them with any alternatives.

Throughout both sets of negotiations the BMA’s aim was to reach agreement on improving safeguards which protect patient safety and doctors’ wellbeing. The BMA said the government’s failure to agree safeguards, and in the case of junior doctors its desire to remove existing protections in order to save money, shows how they have failed to recognise the damaging impact that unsafe and gruelling working patterns have on patients, doctors and the quality of care in the NHS.

The BMA is not prepared to agree changes to contracts that would risk patient safety and doctors’ well-being, and we urge the government to work with us to address these key issues.

Dr Paul Flynn, chair of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, said: “The BMA has been clear in its support for more services being available over seven days. We believe the government must make urgent and emergency care the priority for investment to ensure patients have access to the same quality of care seven days a week, and that this needs to happen before elective – or planned – care can be extended.

“Consultants already work across seven days providing emergency care 24/7, with almost nine in 10 working evenings and weekends on top of their normal working hours. But delivering more services across seven days will also require more nurses, diagnostic and support staff, as well as community services to be in place, all at a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressures.

A recent BMA survey of consultants finds that 88% of consultants take part in an on call rota, delivering patient care at evenings and weekends.

Almost half of respondents reported being called to attend hospital between one and six occasions during their most recent week on call.

Flynn added: “So far the government has failed to produce any detail on how it will staff and resource a massive expansion of services in a safe and sustainable way. Without this detail, consultants are not prepared to sign up in the dark to proposals that could put patients at risk by forcing existing doctors to work dangerously long hours, or lead to weekday services being cut because there simply aren’t enough doctors to staff them.

“The government recently announced plans to dramatically increase the services offered by GPs while ignoring the reality on the ground. By trying to rip up the consultant contract for the sake of nothing more than a few more headlines, they are at risk of repeating the same mistake.”

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