Junior doctors plan rolling programme of industrial action in contract dispute

12 Aug 16

Junior doctors leaders have sought authorisation for a rolling programme of industrial action in an escalation of a long-running contractual dispute with government.

Ellen McCourt, the new chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, has written to the BMA’s council seeking to “authorise a rolling programme of escalated industrial action beginning in September”.

Following long-running negotiations on a new contract, that the government says is needed to improve services in the evenings and at weekends, junior doctors rejected the terms in a vote in July.

This prompted Johann Malawana, who had chaired the junior doctors committee, to resign. His successor McCourt has written to the BMA council to say that since becoming chair, she has been very clear with the government about the issues that led the junior doctors to reject the terms.

The union was concerned penalties faced by NHS providers for overworking doctors would be removed in the new contract, and called for a beefed-up “guardian-of-safe-working” role and for better protections for junior doctors who raise concerns at work.

Previously, concerns had also been raised that doctors would be paid less for working unsocial hours than they are under the current contract, with those working in specialties with a high proportion of weekend and evening working, such as emergency medicine, affected disproportionately.

 “During several meetings with the secretary of state [Jeremy Hunt] I have asked the government to demonstrate a commitment and willingness to act on the priority shortfalls in the new contract; had they done so, we might not have been forced into this position,” McCourt said in a statement.

“Forcing a contract on junior doctors in which they do not have confidence, that they don’t feel is good for their patients or themselves, is not something they can accept.”

In response, NHS Employers chief executive Daniel Mortimer said industrial action achieves little or nothing, but places pressure on already stretched teams and services.

"Over the last two months we have been talking with the junior doctors committee and have, along with the Department of Health and others, responded positively to their concerns regarding the guardian role and whistleblowing.

“Employers were hopeful that the continued positive engagement on other important topics – such as deployment, flexibility in training, additional training for those returning from career breaks, costs of training, mutual recognition of syllabus, study leave and the gender pay gap in medicine – were a sign of how serious employers, Health Education England and the Department of Health were about honouring the agreements reached with the BMA in November, February and May,” he said.

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