Witch hunts and refusing to talk will not help the BMA’s case, says HSJ editor Alastair McLellan

Reading through the 400,000 plus words of the leaked conversations between the executive of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee, a clear picture emerges of those responsible for negotiating on behalf of their profession.

There is a sometimes giddy excitement in being caught up in such a defining dispute; there is an apolitical pragmatism and a willingness to “play games” in order to achieve victory; there is much righteous anger; genuine concern about the impact of the proposed contract; and an understanding of the responsibility they have been given. There is also fear of being seen to do the wrong thing. Finally there is spade loads of naivety – especially about how government works – mixed with a unhealthy dose of arrogance.

It is only the last that should give real cause for concern – it is a dangerous combination.

The JDC executive joke about refusing to talk to HSJ – the only media organisation to have covered the dispute in detail since its beginning three years ago. It is a stance BMA members should be embarrassed about and we continue to hope the JDC reconsider.

To make sure this article can be read by all who are interested, including junior doctors who are not HSJ subscribers, we have taken the decision to publish it in front of our paywall.

Finally, another leak to HSJ has revealed that the BMA council debated hunting down the whistleblower responsible for a previous leak and, potentially, reporting them to the General Medical Council if they were found to be a doctor. The proposal was defeated, but around 40 per cent of council members supported it. Imagine if the board of the Department of Health, or an NHS trust, had undertaken a similar vote. The BMA’s agenda should not include launching a whistleblower witch hunt.

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