Junior doctors reject government’s new contract

Norwich junior doctors on strike make their case on Haymarket, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Norwich junior doctors on strike make their case on Haymarket, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Junior doctors and medical students across England have voted to reject a contract deal between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government.

In a blow to the BMA, which had encouraged doctors to agree the new terms, 58pc voted against the proposed contract while 42pc voted in favour.

Some 68pc of those eligible turned out to vote on the deal - some 37,000 junior doctors and medical students.

Following the result, Dr Johann Malawana, head of the BMA's junior doctors' committee, announced his resignation.

Junior doctors in England who are members of the BMA voted in the referendum on the new deal, which followed months of tense negotiations between the BMA and the Government.

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They were joined by final and penultimate year medical students in the vote.

The BMA held more than 130 roadshows across England to show doctors and medical students details of the new contract.

Dr Malawana said: 'The result of the vote is clear, and the Government must respect the informed decision junior doctors have made. Any new contract will affect a generation of doctors working for the NHS in England, so it is vital that it has the confidence of the profession.

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'Given the result, both sides must look again at the proposals and there should be no transition to a new contract until further talks take place.

'Having spoken to many junior doctors across the country in recent weeks it was clear that, while some felt the new contract represented an improved offer, others had reservations about what it would mean for their working lives, their patients and the future delivery of care in the NHS.

'There was also considerable anger and mistrust towards the Government's handling of this dispute.

'These concerns need to be fully addressed before any new contract can come into effect and, in light of the result, I believe a new chair will be better placed to lead on this work.'

Six strikes have taken place across England during the dispute, causing disruption to hundreds of thousands of patients who have had appointments and operations cancelled.

It is unclear what will happen now with regards to future action. A spokeswoman for the BMA said it has no plans for future strikes.

In May, it looked as though a breakthrough had been reached in the dispute after both sides agreed to a new deal.

Under it, Saturdays and Sundays would attract premium pay if doctors - the vast majority of whom are expected to - work seven or more weekends in a year.

Doctors would receive a percentage of their annual salary for working these weekends - ranging from 3pc for working one weekend in seven to up to 10pc if they work one weekend in two.

Any night shift - on any day - which starts at or after 8pm and lasts more than eight hours, and which finishes at or by 10am the following day, would also result in an enhanced pay rate of 37pc for all the hours worked.

The deal also set out payment for doctors who are on call, and agreed a basic pay increase of between 10pc and 11pc.

In his resignation letter, Dr Malawana said he believed continuing in the job 'would be dishonourable and untenable'.

He said after forcing the Government 'back to the negotiation table twice, I was hopeful that the resulting contract would be acceptable to our amazing membership.

'However, I believe the fundamental breakdown in trust caused by the government's actions over the last five years has resulted in a situation where no solution is possible, particularly when a Government is so keen to declare victory over frontline staff.'

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