Junior Doctor Contract Agreement Reached!
The BMA and government have come to an agreement on the highly disputed junior doctor contract after years of negotiations, multiple industrial strikes and plenty of media spin.
The ACAS agreement have outlined terms for the basis of the new contract which will be published towards the end of May and rolled out in stages from October 2016.
Key areas agreed include;
- − recognition of junior doctors’ work and contribution across every day of the week
- − proper consideration of and provision for equality in the contract, including the chance for accelerated training for those who take time out for caring responsibilities
- − improved flexible pay premia for specialties such as emergency medicine and psychiatry to address the current recruitment and retention crisis in these areas
- − more rigorous oversight of the new guardian role to ensure safe working for junior doctors
The period of uncertainty is over for many, however whether all doctors are content with this contract and what it will look like on the ground, is yet to be revealed. Historically, contractual obligations can in practice, be broken and not adequately addressed. A new Guardian role, if employed by a trust may not provide a sufficiently independent perspective on whether certain conditions (such as compensation for extra hours worked) have adequately been adhered to.
Despite an agreement finally being reached and assuming that Jeremy Hunt memes will now circulate less frequently among online fora, this new contract does not directly tackle the general issues of low morale within the medical workforce.
Health and Safety legislation mandates that all employers are responsible for their staff, but considering what we know about issues relating to NHS culture and mental health problems among doctors which are rarely addressed, should we not also include pro-actively providing support for health and wellbeing of doctors as a contractual obligation?
Earlier this year, Mr. Hunt called for an independent review into the Morale of Junior Doctors which is yet to commence; this may shed new light on “deep-seated issues relating to junior doctors’ morale, wellbeing and quality of life” .
Nevertheless will be several doctors who, even considering the contractual agreements, have already put their plan Bs into action; exploring alternative career opportunities that will provide the security and job satisfaction they desperately desire.