Hospital Dr News

Junior doctors in England vote to ballot for industrial action over imposed contracts

Junior doctors in England are to be balloted by the BMA over potential industrial action in response to the Government’s plans to impose a new contract on junior doctors from August 2016.

Last month, the BMA’s junior doctors committee opted not to re-enter contract negotiations with the government, saying the deal on offer was unacceptable.

In response, the government said it will impose a new contract on doctors in training from August 2016.

In order to re-enter negotiations, the junior doctor committee is demanding that the government and NHS Employers withdraw their threat to impose a new contract, and that they provide assurances on the following:

– recognition of antisocial hours as premium time

– no disadvantage for those working antisocial hours compared to the current system

– no disadvantage for those working less than full time and taking parental leave compared to the current system

– pay for all work done

– proper hours safeguards protecting patients and their doctors

Chair of the BMA’s JDC, Dr Johann Malawana, said: “The decision is a reflection of the anger felt by the thousands of junior doctors who have told us that the government’s position is not acceptable.

“The BMA has been clear that it wants to deliver a contract that protects patient safety and is fair to both junior doctors and the health service as a whole. We can only do this if the government is prepared to work collaboratively in a genuine negotiation. Unfortunately, they have chosen to ride roughshod over the concerns of doctors with their threat of imposition.

“Instead of proper negotiations, the Government has insisted that junior doctors accept recommendations made by the DDRB without question. This would not allow the BMA to negotiate over proposals we believe are unsafe for patients, unfair for doctors and undermine the future of the NHS.

“The contract they want to impose will remove vital protections on safe working patterns, devalues evening and weekend work, and make specialties such as emergency medicine and general practice less attractive even though the NHS is already struggling to recruit and retain doctors to these areas of medicine.”

There are fears the new contract will create an exodus of trainees. The GMC received 1,644 requests for certificates of current professional status (CCPS) – required to work abroad – in just three days last week. Usually, the regulator receives 20-25 a day.

The contentious issues include the removal of annual pay progression and its replacement with pay increases only at points of responsibility; the removal of annual increments from those taking time “out of programme”, for example for research training, other additional experience, or parental leave; the removal of banding and the rebranding of evening and weekend working as ‘normal hours’ despite an increase in basic pay; and, the removal of financial penalties for trusts that breach working hours safeguards.

Malawana added: “We remain committed to agreeing a contract that protects against junior doctors routinely working long hours, delivers a fair system of pay and does not disadvantage those in flexible working and we will not stand idly by as the Government imposes a contract which undermines that.

“We’ve already seen reports of high numbers of doctors considering leaving the NHS to work abroad. These figures should serve as a serious wake-up call to the Government that there is a real risk that junior doctors will speak with their feet. To lose a large swathe of doctors in the early stages of their careers would be a disaster for the NHS.

“We have been clear. Junior doctors are not prepared to agree contract changes that would risk patient safety and doctors’ wellbeing. This has been our position all along and in the absence of any attempts by the Government to address our concerns remains our position today.”

In an unusual step, royal colleges last week wrote to the government voicing their concern over the proposed junior doctor contract and urging renewed negotiations.

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