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juniorcontract2January 6 2016

Talks between the BMA Junior Doctors Committee and NHS Employers are to continue at ACAS, despite the BMA announcing industrial action was likely next week.

On Monday, the BMA walked out of negotiations saying that the summary offer to the BMA letter from NHS employers was “more of a commentary - and a selective one at that.” The BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee Chair, Dr Johann Malawana, said that the document did not accurately reflect the position which had been reached during the negotiations, and specifically:

“1. It does not accurately reflect the areas of alignment reached during the course of the negotiations.

“2. It does not give the full picture, using unnecessarily provocative language and is either deliberately vague or omits altogether the BMA’s position, including areas where we believed we had reached agreement.”

However, Dr Malawana said: “At the same time, we would like to continue to build on those areas on which we are aligned as a result of the progress made in good faith during negotiations ... the BMA initiated the involvement of ACAS in opening negotiations in December and we would strongly urge that they join talks again.”

For NHS Employers, Chief Executive Daniel Mortimer, welcomed the proposal to return to ACAS, but said his side had made a “substantive proposal ... to implement a system of financial penalties in response to breaches of hours protections”, the BMA’s key remaining concern.

In a letter to the BMA, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “On the final unresolved issue of pay for weekend working, we remain willing to show flexibility and negotiate in good faith. It is therefore highly unfortunate that your team were not willing to discuss any compromise on this issue even though we have made clear that pay will be protected for all doctors working within contracted maximum hours.”

Commenting on proceedings, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “Throughout this process the BMA has been clear that it wants to reach agreement on a contract that is good for patients, junior doctors and the NHS. This is why, despite overwhelming support for industrial action, the BMA instead sought conciliation talks with the Government, talks which were initially rejected and delayed by Jeremy Hunt.

“After weeks of further negotiations, it is clear that the Government is still not taking junior doctors’ concerns seriously. Furthermore, the Government has repeatedly dragged its feet throughout this process, initially rejecting our offer of talks and failing to make significant movement during negotiations.

“We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option. It is because the Government’s proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long-term that we are taking this stand.”

The details of the planned industrial action are as follows:

  • emergency care only – 8am Tuesday, 12 January to 8am Wednesday, 13 January
  • emergency care only – 8am Tuesday, 26 January to 8am Thursday, 28 January
  • full withdrawal of labour – 8am to 5pm on Wednesday, 10 February

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Chair said the situation has led to the” lowest morale amongst doctors in a generation”. She warned that efforts to recruit thousands of additional doctors into the NHS over the coming years “could be fatally damaged” if the matter is not resolved swiftly.

“Doctors choose medicine because they genuinely want to care for their patients and contribute to the health service but they do not think the proposed contract will enable them to do this and clearly now feel that industrial action is the only way forward,” she said.

“The RCGP was the first medical royal college to express concerns about the impact of the new contract and we have consistently called on the Government for assurances that no GP trainee will lose out financially, and for greater clarification on the proposals. The College will continue to support our junior doctors throughout this difficult period.”

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: “As we have made clear, we expect doctors in training who take part in the BMA’s action to take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that arrangements will be in place to care for their patients, and to inform employers of their intentions in good time so that measures can be put in place to ensure patient safety is not compromised.

“Doctors have a legal right to take industrial action and our guidance does not prevent them from exercising that right. We know they care deeply for the welfare of patients and will act responsibly in this situation. However, as our guidance makes clear, if a doctor’s actions cause patients to come to serious harm, or put them at risk of serious harm, we have a statutory duty to investigate and the doctor must be prepared to justify the decisions they have made.”

Links:

BMA letter to NHS Employers

NHS Employers response to BMA letter

Jeremy Hunt letter to BMA

DoH Junior Doctors’ Contract documents

BMA statement

RCGP statement

GMC comment

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