Medical royal colleges plan to lobby Jeremy Hunt over planned changes to junior doctor contracts which threaten ‘the future of medicine and patient care’, HSJ can reveal.

  • RCP president concerned over impact of imposed contract on trainee doctors
  • Royal colleges to send letter to health secretary
  • RCP fears changes could damage plans for seven day services

A bulletin sent to Royal College of Physicians members this afternoon by RCP president Jane Dacre revealed she and her counterparts at other royal colleges would write jointly to the health secretary on the issue.  

In the message, seen by HSJ, Dr Dacre wrote: “I am deeply concerned that these implications have not been fully understood by the government, whose drive towards seven day services needs to be matched by a more realistic underpinning of support and value to those who are providing those services, including our trainees.

Jane Dacre 2015

Jane Dacre has written to the health secretary about the issue which threatens ‘the future of medicine’

“The RCP has a duty to support our trainees – the future of medicine – during challenging times. We have to act to improve the parts of the system we can, but we also have to speak up and challenge others to do the same. Consequently, I have been speaking to my fellow royal college presidents, and we have agreed to send a joint letter to the secretary of state for health to express our significant concerns.”

The intervention of the medical royal colleges comes after the Department of Health said it would seek to impose a new contract on junior doctors from April 2016. This followed the decision of junior doctors at the British Medical Association not to re-enter negotiations after walking away from talks in October 2014.

The BMA says the contract proposed by NHS Employers is unsafe and will damage patient care and lead to pay cuts for trainee medics. However, NHS Employers says the final details are still up for discussion and has launched a nationwide series of events to engage directly with doctors.

In her message, Dr Dacre added: “As president of the Royal College of Physicians, I am concerned about the impact this has on our trainees, who we know are already striving to learn, to provide excellent care for patients and to drive improvement across the NHS.

“As doctors, our own health, wellbeing and engagement is intimately linked to our ability to provide safe, effective patient care. Doctors who feel more engaged are significantly less likely to make mistakes, and better staff wellbeing is even associated with lower standardised mortality figures. Conversely, trusts with high death rates tend to have high rates of sickness absence, particularly among doctors and nurses.”

And she warned: “We are already carrying too many consultant vacancies, many in the medical specialties that diagnose and treat patients with the greatest need - for example, acute medicine and geriatric medicine. I am worried that in the future it will become even more difficult to recruit to these specialties that take on the greatest responsibility for seven day services.”