Junior doctors to vote on contract changes

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The British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers are putting new proposals, including 2% annual pay uplifts, to a referendum following ongoing contract disputes

Junior doctors are to vote on whether to accept a new version of their contract, which will mean annual pay uplifts of 2% and additional investment to support increased productivity and recruitment and retention.

The new four-year improvement to the contract will be put to a referendum of junior doctors on Friday 14 June.

The proposals have been reached by agreement between NHS Employers and the trade union for doctors and medical students the BMA.

Under the agreement £90 million will be used to fund changes over and above the pay uplifts during the next four years. The changes include:

  • a weekend allowance uplift to ensure those working the most frequent weekends are remunerated more fairly;
  • an enhanced rate of pay for shifts that finish after midnight and by 4am;
  • a new nodal pay point five (meaning that instead of a senior decision-maker allowance, a fifth nodal pay point will be introduced).

Covering the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2023, this will mean a total investment of 2.3% in 2019/20, and in the following three years annual pay increases of 2% and a further 1% of additional investment in the contract.

Agreement has also been reached over safety and rest limits, exception reporting and guardian of safe working hours, work scheduling and code of practice, and leave and locum work.

The vote comes after the 2018 review of the 2016 contract. The 2016 contract introduced significant reforms in terms and conditions and was focused on the key aims of improving safe working, supporting education and making changes to an outdated pay system.

The review was subject to much criticism and controversy, however. The BMA did not support the terms and disputes over the contract led to the first strike action by junior doctors in 40 years. Four separate strikes caused thousands of outpatient appointments and elective operations to be cancelled.

If junior doctors support the new deal the terms will be introduced from August 2019 for doctors in training. This will put the contract on the same basis as all national NHS pay contracts, with changes agreed in partnership between staff and employer representatives.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said that it is hoped junior doctors will vote in favour of the changes.

“We welcome the additional investment from the government and NHS England. The agreements reached show the seriousness of all sides to review and improve the contract, and to build a safe and constructive way forward for this important part of our workforce,” he said.

“We very much hope that doctors will support the investments and contract amendments, which in turn will allow the BMA to restore normal collective relationships with the NHS."

He added: “We look forward to working with the BMA to implement the proposed amendments, and to a long-term working relationship that will allow more regular and routine updating of the contract.”

The proposed junior doctor contract follows the NHS publishing its Interim People Plan at the beginning of June, laying out plans for the future of its workforce. The proposals include a new leadership development framework, improved flexible working options, and more flexibility on how pension contributions are accrued.

To address nursing shortages the NHS said it will increase the number of people coming into nursing and midwifery degrees, as well as expand clinical placements to offer training and experience for these recruits. Recruitment campaigns will include a new push to attract returners to nursing through parenting website Mumsnet.

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