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Junior doctors’ ballot result provokes widespread disappointment and dismay

NHS already facing huge period of challenge and uncertainty without this

Caroline White

Wednesday, 06 July 2016

Doctors’ leaders and patient groups have expressed widespread disappointment at junior doctors’ rejection of the proposed new contract deal, following yesterday’s referendum result.

The BMA and the government had finally reached agreement on the terms and conditions of the new contract proposals at the end of May, after a long running and increasingly bitter dispute.

But yesterday the BMA announced that junior doctors and final year medical students in England had voted to reject the deal by 58% to 42% on a 68% turnout.

In a statement, the Chair and Officers Group of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which had successfully called for a pause in the enforced introduction of the new contract, said the situation had to be resolved for the sake of all concerned.

“This has been a difficult experience for the NHS, for patients and for junior doctors. The NHS is facing a period of huge challenge and we do have to move on for the sake of patient care and for doctors themselves,” said the statement.

If the government now chooses to proceed with implementation of the contract it should be a phased process which must be sensitive to genuine problems and concerns that may arise and seeks to ensure that any issues are considered and addressed,” the statement urged.

It’s not clear what the government plans to do, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that it was “extremely disappointing that junior doctors have voted against this contract, which was agreed with and endorsed by the leader of the BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee and supported by senior NHS leaders.”

He added: “The BMA’s figures show that only 40% of those eligible actually voted against this contract, and a third of BMA members didn’t vote at all. We will now consider the outcome.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers added his voice to the chorus of disappointment, emphasising: “It is imperative that patients will not be made to suffer any further impact as a result of the rejection of the contract.”

President of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Jane Dacre commented: “I am disappointed that we have still not reached agreement on the junior doctors’ contract, a situation which is causing uncertainty for junior doctors, patients and the wider NHS.”

The College would work with its trainees to address their concerns and improve the non-contractual elements of their working lives, and would be issuing new guidance to support them in the coming months, she promised.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, which had called on BMA members to accept the proposals, said that the body was “shocked and dismayed” at the prospect of the possible continuation of the dispute.

“We recognise that junior doctors are the backbone of the NHS, but it is vital that they are available to provide the safe and effective care that patients need. Patients and the NHS cannot face any prospect of further strike action. There have been no winners in this ongoing dispute, instead it’s patients who have been the losers,” she said.

But Professor Sue Richards, founder and executive committee member of the campaign group Keep our NHS Public, said that the result was legitimate and a clear sign that junior doctors had no confidence in Jeremy Hunt.

She said the seven-day service had been nothing more than “a clever ruse” without any resources attached to it, “other than spreading what was already there more thinly.”

Referring to the uncertainties provoked by the EU Referendum result, she insisted: “At a time like this, it is sheer folly to introduce changes to the contract which are opposed by the junior doctors. Their good will will be needed to get us through the looming staffing crisis.

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