The chief executive of NHS Employers has warned the British Medical Association ‘there is no alternative’ to negotiation over a new contract for junior doctors.

  • NHS Employers chief urges BMA to restart contract negotiations
  • Conservatives intend to reform contracts for doctors as part of seven day services
  • BMA says a “negotiated deal would be the best outcome”

Speaking to HSJ ahead of the BMA’s annual junior doctor conference this weekend, Danny Mortimer has urged the association to return to talks.

In October negotiations between the BMA and NHS Employers collapsed after 18 months when the association walked away from negotiations, claiming employers were trying to remove safeguards on working hours that would risk patient safety.

In January NHS Employers submitted evidence to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration which included a near full contract offer to junior doctors.

Daniel Mortimer

The BMA needs to commit to engage in these discussions, Daniel Mortimer said

This would see an increase in their basic pay but the loss of automatic pay progression in favour of a system based on level of responsibility. Trainees would be paid on the basis of an hourly rate with those working Sundays or night shifts receiving more. The proposal also included a maximum of four consecutive night shifts, five consecutive long days over 10 hours, and a maximum number of average hours.

The review body is expected to produce a report in July setting out a potential way forward for changes to both junior doctors and consultants’ terms and conditions.

Mr Mortimer said: “Our default setting is to want to negotiate but we need the BMA to commit to engage in those discussions and commit to talk, and if there are differences we need to resolve them. We hope when they meet and discuss their motions we hope what will emerge is a commitment to take the [review body’s] report and discuss with us the implementation of it.”

He added that the existing contract based on a punitive pay system to force trusts to comply with the European Working Time Directive was no longer “fit for purpose and had done its job”.

Mr Mortimer said: “Negotiation and discussion between staff and employers is a way to devise a new contract, and just saying no doesn’t lead us to a better place.

“If you don’t engage with a process and try and agree a better solution, where is there left for the NHS to go? There is no alternative.”

The Conservative Party laid out in its election manifesto its intentions to reform contract pay, terms and conditions for doctors as part of a move to seven day services.

Among the motions due to be discussed at the junior doctors conference include a suggestion that the BMA should have a “comprehensive contingency plan” for industrial action in the event the government tries to impose a contract on doctors.

Other motions indicate junior doctors are willing to engage but have concerns over the impact of changes on health and family life, recruitment and retention, and the overall importance of a national contract.

A BMA spokeswoman said: “Our position has always been that a negotiated deal would be the best outcome for patients and doctors, with concerns around safeguards for patients and doctors properly addressed.”