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Juniors’ contract concerns about far more than pay

BMA again calls on Hunt to withdraw threat of imposition and return to negotiation

Louise Prime

Thursday, 28 April 2016

BMA junior doctors have renewed their calls for Jeremy Hunt to withdraw his threat to impose his new contract on junior doctors, and to return to the negotiating table to address the several outstanding concerns that they have – which, as they pointed out, are “about much more than just pay”. They insisted that the government cannot continue to ignore the tens of thousands of junior doctors who are opposed to the contract, and who want to end the dispute through talks.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, wrote to the health secretary last night – as the first full withdrawal of labour by junior doctors in the history of the NHS came to a close – reiterating the strength of feeling and continuing resolve among junior doctors, of whom 78% are said by NHS England to have not reported for duty yesterday. He insisted that the priority of the BMA and junior doctors in England has always been to resolve matters through negotiation, and that they never wanted to be in the position of taking industrial action. But, he said, “this simply can’t take place with the threat of imposition hanging over our heads.”

Dr Malawana pointed out that junior doctors are critical to the seven-day delivery of consistent, high-quality emergency care, and as the very people who already work across the week, it is “simply counter-productive that they continue to be represented as a block to this”.

He told Mr Hunt: “Last night, you stated yet again that there was only one outstanding issue to resolve. This is not the case – the issues which you set out in your letter earlier this week are inextricably linked in reaching a resolution in which junior doctors can have confidence.” These, he said, include:

  • protection against working excessive hours without appropriate rest and breaks during and between shifts
  • fair acknowledgement of the impact and definition of shift patterns and rotas, including the issues of non-resident on call, night and twilight shifts and definition of weekends
  • pay for all work done
  • first refusal for locum work and national locum rates
  • transitional arrangements
  • robust safeguards, including exception reporting and appeals mechanisms
  • trusts’ ability unilaterally to vary contract terms

Dr Malawana said: “The level of support junior doctors have received from patients, colleagues and the public over the last two days has been overwhelming. There is an understanding that junior doctors have taken this action as a last resort and in the interest of long-term patient care ...

“The health secretary himself has admitted there are serious, outstanding issues around excessive working hours, training, recruitment and retention and the impact these have on the ability of the NHS to deliver a seven-day service. He must now get back around the table so that these can be resolved and trust between junior doctors and the government can be rebuilt.

“After eight days of industrial action, including the first full withdrawal of labour by doctors in the history of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt must, for the sake of patients as well as a generation of doctors, choose negotiation over imposition, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks.”

Picture: London, 26 April 2016: march and rally by the junior doctors. Credit: Ms Jane Campbell / Shutterstock.com

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