This Commons Library briefing provides background information on the introduction of a new contract for doctors in training (junior doctors) in England, including a summary of the proposed changes, and background on negotiations between NHS Employers and the BMA.Jump to full report >>
Following three years of on-and-off negotiations about the introduction of a new contract for junior doctors an agreement was reached between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Secretary of State for Health on 18 May 2016. The agreement was subject to a BMA referendum of junior doctor members. On 5 July 2016 it was announced that junior doctors had rejected the contract offer, with 58 per cent of junior doctors voting against, while 42 per cent voted to accept. The turnout was 68 per cent.
On 31 August 2016 the BMA Junior Doctors Committee announced further industrial action and the following day confirmed there would be 5-day strikes, including the withdrawal of emergency cover, in September, October, November and December 2016 (and due to occur between 8am and 5pm on each day of industrial action). On 5 September the BMA suspended the strike planned for 12-16 September after NHS leaders raised concerns about the ability of NHS to make contingency plans in time. On 24 September the BMA suspended strike action on the remaining dates:
While the BMA Junior Doctors Committee said it would not go ahead with the industrial action, it confirmed its continuing opposition to the implementation of the contract and said it is “planning other actions over the coming weeks”.
The Secretary of State has made statements to Parliament on the junior doctor contract, on 6 July 2016, following the BMA ballot rejecting the contract, and on 5 September 2016, following the BMA announcement of plans for industrial action. In both statements he confirmed the Government’s intention to implement the contract agreed in May in a phased process between October 2016 and October 2017 [see HC Deb 6 July 2016 and HC Deb 5 September 2016]
The 18 May 2016 agreement came at the end of 10 days of negotiations at ACAS, brokered by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. If followed a protracted dispute over the terms of the contract, which has seen junior doctors taking industrial action on five occasions, earlier in 2016.
Under the agreement the increase in basic pay is reduced and weekend allowances adjusted to increase in-line with the number of weekends worked. Those working one in eight weekends or fewer would get nothing for working Saturday or Sunday. That compares to Saturday evening work and all-day Sunday attracting a premium payment under the terms which were to have been imposed.
There were also additional commitments to protect doctors with caring responsibilities, to ensuring safe working for doctors, to protect whistle blowers, to “appropriately compensate” overtime, and to introduced new “Flexible Pay Premium” to support recruitment.
Further detail can be found in the Junior Doctors Contract Terms and Conditions document, updated on 6 July 2016, but key points include:
The parties also agreed to number of issues outside of the contract including:
The negotiations, planned industrial action, and implementation of the new contract only relate to junior doctors in England. The Scottish Government has repeated assurances to the BMA made in August 2015 that it will not be seeking to impose any new arrangements on trainees in Scotland. In September 2015, Welsh Government officials issued a statement to BMA Cymru Wales indicating that they will retain the current junior doctor contract in Wales. The Northern Ireland health minister, Simon Hamilton, has said he would like to develop a negotiated solution for Northern Ireland.
This briefing sets out some background to the contract negotiations and some of the key measures in the contract agreement announced in May 2016, and in previous contract proposals in February 2016. Further information on junior doctor contract negotiations can be found on the Department of Health, NHS Employers and BMA websites. The further reading section of this briefing also provides links to coverage of the most recent developments. See the further reading section of this briefing for coverage of the most recent developments.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7314
Author: Tom Powell