The British Medical Association has walked out of talks with NHS Employers over junior doctors contracts.

  • BMA junior doctors committee votes not to re-enter negotiations with NHS Employers
  • Trade union calls on government to drop insistence on extending routine working hours
  • NHS Employers “extremely disappointed”

The trade union said its decision was prompted by government “insistence” that it accept all recommendations on a new contract made by the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body on Remuneration.

The BMA said such a move would not allow junior doctors to negotiate over proposals it believes are unsafe for patients and unfair to doctors.

A BMA statement said that in order to return to negotiations, the union wanted the government to drop its position on some of the DDRB’s recommendations, which it said would:

  • extend routine working hours from 60 hours a week to 90 hours a week;
  • remove certain safeguards which discourage employers from making junior doctors work excessive hours; and
  • break the link between pay levels and experience gained during training.

Under NHS Employers’ offer junior doctors would see an increase in their basic pay but would lose automatic pay progression in favour of a system based on their level of responsibility.

Old man in bed, doctor using stehoscope

The BMA and NHS Employers have clashed over proposals made by the DDRB

Trainees would be paid on the basis of an hourly rate with those working Sundays or night shifts receiving more.

NHS Employers claims the contract would include limits such as a maximum of four consecutive night shifts, five consecutive long days over 10 hours, and a maximum number of average hours.

The government has said it will put more money into the junior doctors’ pay bill to cover the higher cost of an increased basic pay alongside a career average pension scheme.

Dr Kitty Mohan, co-chair of the BMA junior doctor committee, said: “The UK government seems quite oblivious to the fact that junior doctors care for their patients all day, all night, seven days a week.

“And that, despite the safeguards in place, we still hear examples of junior doctors working days on end or 90 hour weeks.

“The government has said it wants to negotiate but this ‘offer’ on the table is an imposition in all but name. It would be letting down our members and the patients for whom they care to simply go along with a government hell bent on getting something signed, sealed and delivered as quickly as possible.”

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “As the BMA know, our approach to contract discussions has always been based on providing safe working hours for doctors in training, as well as stability of pay and agreed and fair work schedules.

“Whilst the DDRB endorsed the broad direction of travel, there was still much to do, and we accepted their encouragement to discuss these issues - including the BMA concerns - further.

“Employers across the NHS are extremely disappointed to hear that the BMA junior doctor committee has decided to refuse to enter contract negotiations with NHS Employers.

“While consultants continue to engage in productive negotiation with us it is a real shame that we do not see the same approach from junior doctors.”