Partha Kar

Junior doctor contract – threats and negotiations aren’t good bed fellows

We, as a community, must respect the position junior doctors are taking.

We call them ‘junior’ doctors but they are anything but. These are people who in any walk of life would have been respected for what they are. They’re adults and they’re highly skilled professionals, who have families and mortgages.

Yet somehow many have decided to treat this particular workforce differently. I will tell you how I see ‘my juniors’- vital colleagues who are helping me do my job. If I can help them develop along the way – even just a fraction – then that’s very good indeed.

I am tired of hearing comparisons between the pay of different professionals. Stop comparing junior doctors to a cleaner, or a banker for that matter. They are different jobs and have different responsibilities. There are bigger issues involved, most notably work hours.

If our junior colleagues and nurses held to their contracted hours, or asked to be paid for for every extra hour worked, the current £1bn deficit would look good. The counter? It’s a vocation, so you must go the extra mile.

Let me point out a fundamental flaw in that logic. Look at the Oxford English Dictionary: “Vocation: A person’s occupation, especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication”. Or “A  strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation”.

Anything jump out? It’s about making people feel valued. If they are then the vocational aspect comes to the fore. Some seniors point to the hours they worked. But it was different circumstances – there weren’t the administrative burdens; there were perks of free accommodation, and at the end of the rainbow was a consultant salary, a permanent contract and a gilt edged pension to look forward to.

Sorry, did I forget to mention merit awards and the ensuing CEA system?

We aren’t offering our juniors those things. We’re actually in the process of reducing them, so where exactly does the vocation aspect come from? Juniors currently face being under valued, and having less security, which doesn’t help those with large mortgages.

I don’t want a strike – but I do admire the unity of junior doctors. I don’t think it’s about pay but about safety – of both doctors and patients. We also have to recognise in 2015 that a woman taking a break to have children doesn’t make her any less of a ‘high-flyer’.

The latest letter from Mr J Hunt shows a willingness to take it forward and there appears areas that could benefit from futher discussion. But it does need to be accompanied by removal of any threat of imposition. Threats and negotiations aren’t good bedfellows – just look at the Middle East.

Finally, its about treating people as adults. Our junior colleagues are being treated poorly – and we should, as a whole, recognise that. We shouldn’t denigrate or sneer.

Let’s point out what could help. Let’s be friendly critics. If the advice is taken, well great; if it’s ignored, well they’re adults. And as such they have a right to choose and fight for their future.

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One Response to “Junior doctor contract – threats and negotiations aren’t good bed fellows”

  1. Mark Cowling says:

    Quite right – our trainees have every right to be treated with respect and to feel valued. They must also be looking at the government’s lamentable behaviour over the the consultant contract and be very concerned for the future.

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