HSJ’s round-up of the must read stories from Thursday

WhatsApp leak reveals plan to ‘drag out’ contract dispute

On a busy day of NHS news, there was one story that got HSJ readers, doctors and the national media talking more than any other.

In a huge leak of more than 1,000 pages of private messages, HSJ revealed the strategy adopted by junior doctors’ leaders in their historic contract dispute with the government.

The revelations include:

  • The leadership of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee wanted to “draw this [dispute] right out” with “punctuated [industrial action] for a prolonged period” and tie “the DH up in knots for the next 16-18 months”.
  • JDC chair Johann Malawana told the group in December that the “best solution” might include playing out the dispute for so long that it would “force” the government “to impose [the contact] against our support”.
  • The strategy contrasts with public statements made by BMA leaders throughout the dispute asserting that the dispute could be resolved if the government was willing to negotiate. For example, on 23 February Dr Malawana said: “The government can avert this [strike] action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing rather than simply ignoring the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have.”
  • Despite protestations that the dispute was about “safety, not pay”, the issue of weekend pay was described late last year by a JDC executive member as “the only real red line” for junior doctors. This point was only finally conceded by the JDC on 7 May when it decided to re-enter negotiations.
  • However, Dr Malawana discussed conceding the weekend pay issue if the government increased the medical pay bill by £500m-£700m.
  • Although the BMA stated throughout the dispute it wanted to negotiate with the government, the leak reveals the JDC executive believed it “had nothing to talk about” as it was not willing to discuss weekend pay. This position only changed this month.

In response, the BMA said the conversations date back over six months and “reflect the anger and frustration felt by junior doctors across the country due to the government’s refusal to listen to their concerns”.

The union added: “Private discussions should not be mistaken for the agreed strategy of the BMA junior doctors committee, which was communicated publicly.”

Final countdown

The window for entering the HSJ Awards 2016 closes next week.

You or your organisation have only until 3 June (next Friday) to put yourselves forward for the most sought after accolades in British healthcare, which celebrate and showcase the finest achievements in the health service.

There are 23 categories to enter this year, including CCG of the year, provider trust of the year, patient safety, chief executive of the year and prizes for innovation and use of technology.