• BMA junior doctors’ committee chair tried to secure fully funded shared parental leave for doctors after contract deal was agreed
  • Attempt was rebuffed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt this week
  • News comes as resignation letters from two JDC executive members reveal concerns about lack of democracy and “dishonest” political game-playing

Junior doctors’ leader Johann Malawana met with Jeremy Hunt on Thursday in a belated attempt to extract further concessions on the contract deal agreed by the two parties earlier this month, HSJ can reveal.

HSJ understands Dr Malawana wanted the health secretary to agree fully funded shared parental leave for junior doctors in their new contract offer. However, this was rebuffed by Mr Hunt as it would have had significant financial implications across the public sector.

The British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee – which Dr Malawana chairs – and the government agreed a deal on a new contract last week, bringing to an end a three year dispute. The BMA’s junior doctor membership has yet to vote on whether to accept the deal.  

However, on Tuesday this week Dr Malawana told members of the JDC executive on WhatsApp that when “Hunt came out with his political stance [following the deal], I saw an opportunity to try and extract more concessions as the reaction amongst doctors was so strong”.

He explained that shared parental leave had been part of the negotiations earlier this month, but they could not get it signed off by the Treasury and ran out of time.

Dr Malawana suggested in the WhatsApp message prior to yesterday’s meeting that Mr Hunt now needed to deliver this because “he needs to retain my ability to say what I think about the contract”. Dr Malawana has backed the agreement reached last week as a “good deal” for junior doctors.

The news comes as HSJ can also reveal details of the resignation letters sent by two members of the JDC executive who stepped down earlier this month. They heavily criticise Dr Malawana and the BMA for the way the executive committee has been run and for playing a “dishonest” political game.

They also raise concerns over a lack of democracy and even “bullying” in the group.

The two letters, from Conan Castles and Charlotte Elliott, were sent after the pair resigned from the JDC executive on 7 May as the wider JDC voted to compromise on Saturday pay and return to negotiations.

In her resignation letter Dr Elliott said: “I have struggled to deal with and accept the direction that you have led not just the JDC/Exec but all of the junior doctors in England. This is not about getting the best deal for junior doctors any more, rather it is a political game that at times has been a dishonest one.

“You have overlooked and dismissed several opportunities to improve on the contract whilst presenting no alternative but strike action and in the process are damaging the years of prestige which the BMA holds.”

She had a “genuine concern that the executive committee was not democratic any more”, adding: “It seems your decision is presented at the start of a meeting having been decided elsewhere, and even if the committee disagrees, you go for it anyway presenting the outcome as an ‘Exec decision’. I do not want to be part of a group where we cannot have a say on vital decisions or be able to question them.”

She says she was made to feel isolated and at times she felt “bullied” in meetings and in emails. She says: “This has made it challenging to speak out as I do not feel my points are listened to or valued.”

In his letter, Conan Castles said he had been expressing concerns for many months, but that as a non-voting member of the executive, he had felt “my opinion counts for nothing when decisions have been made”.

He added: “My other concerns have been around how exec has been functioning. My perception is that decisions are being made elsewhere, exec are not getting told anything about what is happening before the decision, yet we are then presented with these decisions, seemingly fait accompli, to claim that is an ‘exec decision’.”

The BMA and Department of Health were approached for comment but declined to respond.