NHS trusts are gearing up to transfer the majority of junior doctors to their new contract in August.
Trusts have been warned to ensure they are properly prepared for the transfer in a letter from NHS Improvement medical director Kathy McLean.
The implementation of the controversial new terms and conditions, which drove thousands of junior doctors take unprecedented strike action last year, has been phased since the government imposed the final terms on doctors across England.
A note from NHS Employers, alongside Dr McLean’s letter, said trusts should:
- finalise work schedules, including training opportunities for specialties affected by the transfer;
- ensure all new rotas are compliant with new safety rules introduced under the contract; and
- make sure pay protection for transferring doctors is in place.
NHS Employers said under revised codes of practice, trusts should send information to doctors about their rotas eight weeks in advance with final details six weeks in advance.
It said: “Employers have successfully transferred significant numbers of junior doctors on to the new arrangements. In October and December last year, and this year in February and April, thousands of doctors across the country started work on the 2016 contract.
“However, 2 August will be a significant date, because it is this date when the largest number of doctors transfer to the 2016 contract. After this date, the vast majority of doctors in training across the country will be on the new arrangements. Only a small number transferring in September and October, and those on long term contracts, will be left on the old arrangements.
“The August transfer is no different to what has gone previously; the challenge however is the significantly larger number of trainees.”
Foundation doctors in the first two years of training in the NHS transferred in November and December, with psychiatry, paediatrics and pathology trainees transitioning to the new terms in February and April.
Any junior doctor who has not transitioned by October will be expected to do so at their next rotation.
Dr McLean also urged trusts to ensure safe working guardians were properly supported. The role is aligned to new rules allowing junior doctors to report when they have been expected to work beyond their contracted hours or lost key training sessions.
She said: “The feedback I have been receiving generally from those I have met remains very positive. I know you appreciate the importance of the guardian role, but I would like to reinforce the message that they should be adequately supported and in particular, the importance of the exception reporting process, which is key to the success of implementation since it is the mechanism through which concerns about safe working and training arrangements are raised.
“All parties, including the British Medical Association, agree that it is essential that the exception reporting process is used effectively.”
There has been concern among trusts that the implementation of the contract has added significant costs to employers, with the potential for fines related to the safe working guardian process adding to this burden.