Junior doctors in England will have the final say on any changes proposed to their national terms and conditions agreed in an upcoming review of the imposed 2016 contract, BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya has confirmed.
Speaking at this year’s junior doctors conference on Saturday, Dr Wijesuriya confirmed that his committee would be able to enter the 2018 review as an equal negotiating partner with NHS Employers, with any changes put before eligible members via a referendum.
In doing so, he made clear that the JDC’s opposition to the contract, which was unilaterally imposed on the profession, would be maintained during the review process.
He said: ‘After lengthy discussions with national leaders, while we remain in dispute over the unilateral introduction of the contract, we will take part in the 2018 review to make changes wherever they are needed – and we will do so as equal partners, with the final agreed deal then to be put to our members in a referendum. We have been strong, we have been constructive – and now we know our voices will be heard.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement: ‘We are pleased that the BMA will work in partnership with NHS Employers on the review of the 2016 contract. We want to support junior doctors to provide high-quality, safe care for their patients.’
Addressing the conference, Dr Wijesuriya emphasised the many incremental advances and improvements that had been secured for junior doctors over the past 12 months, including guidance, agreed with NHS Employers, on good rostering, and a new charter on improving sleep and rest facilities for junior staff.
Highlighting the Bawa-Garba case, Dr Wijesuriya added that the association had secured ‘concrete assurances’ from the GMC that doctors under investigation would not be required to provide their reflective statements.
He added that the BMA had been granted permission to intervene in the appeal against Dr Bawa-Garba’s erasure from the Medical Register and was continuing to do all it could to provide her with direct support.
In addition to achievements, Dr Wijesuriya made clear that junior doctors, and the wider health service, faced extensive challenges, and that to meet this successfully doctors had to remained united.
He said: ‘It has not always been easy, but I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved. In many areas we have forced genuine change, change that will affect thousands of lives for the better – and for which we have to fight on.
‘The NHS simply cannot survive if it continues to haemorrhage the talented, hard-working and innovative staff that it is losing. Too often we find ourselves feeling like cogs in the machine – like we are not valued for the work we do, and the humanity we try to provide every day on the frontline in hospitals and GP practices, that sometimes feel more like battlefields than places of care.’
He added: ‘In the coming months our voices will need to be more united and than ever because the difficulties that face the profession continue to grow: our colleagues, our friends and the doctors of the future need us to fight for a better NHS for staff as well as for patients.’