BMA makes case for contract fairness
30 January 2013
Any changes to doctors’ working conditions must be ‘fair for doctors and good for patients’, the BMA has insisted.
BMA council chair Mark Porter this week told a key event that the association was considering the government’s proposals for consultants and junior doctors. However, Dr Porter stressed that doctors’ high-quality training and freedom to practise clinical autonomy for their patients must be paramount.
Dr Porter set out the association’s initial views at an NHSE (NHS Employers) stakeholder event alongside other BMA representatives.
The event was part of an exploratory process considering potential changes to junior doctor and consultant contracts.
Dr Porter told stakeholders at the NHSE event: ‘The contract proposals outlined by government and employers in December would have a far-reaching impact on doctors’ working lives and future careers … Doctors do respond to changing needs in order to improve care for patients. But it is essential that any changes to terms and conditions would be fair for doctors and good for patients.’
The government wants to renegotiate the juniors’ contract and alter consultants’ awards schemes, pay structures and ways of working.
Dr Porter said that the contract proposals needed to be based on an understanding of:
- Challenges facing doctors and the NHS under the tough economic climate
- Views and experiences of practising doctors
- The need for more and better clinical engagement and leadership
- Respect for professionalism and clinical autonomy.
On junior doctors’ issues, Dr Porter said: ‘We need a contract that gives junior doctors the time and space to learn.’
He said progress made on limiting juniors’ working hours, which made hospitals safer for patients, should be safeguarded and that juniors would benefit from more stability of working patterns and income.
Dr Porter added that any contract needed to recognise the professionalism of these ‘highly qualified individuals with much to contribute to improving patient care’.
He told the meeting that consultants’ clinical autonomy and innovation in improving patient care was vital. Dr Porter named consultants who had increased patient satisfaction and saved money by improving NHS services.
Dr Porter said: ‘Change is not something that should be wielded like a stick. Successful change that helps the NHS to flourish and to improve healthcare will only happen if it’s rooted in a genuine dialogue, right from the start, with the people who have to deliver it.’
Dr Porter was joined at the NHSE event by BMA representatives from each of the devolved nations and branch of practice committees including consultants, junior doctors, medical academics and public health clinicians.
The BMA is considering carefully a government proposal for UK-wide discussions, as consultant contracts differ on a number of key aspects in the devolved nations.
The NHSE said the event had agreed key areas for further discussion:
- The need for fairness and transparency
- Ensuring that contracts meet the needs of patients, employers and doctors
- Ensuring that contracts are based on a long-term, sustainable view of how services will need to be delivered to meet current and future needs.
NHSE director Dean Royles said: 'Clinical excellence awards and junior doctors' contracts are probably the two areas of doctors' terms and conditions that are most in need of revision. But these are complex issues. It's right that we come together to have these early discussions, to set a constructive context prior to any formal negotiation, so that any future deals achieve the best result for the patient, the taxpayer and the future medical workforce.
'We look forward to working to achieve new contracts that focus on the needs of the patient and ensure the NHS is able to respond to current and future demands. This will be complex and challenging but there is a compelling case for change.'
Dr Porter added: 'The BMA is focused on ensuring fairness for doctors and the best quality care for patients. We will be carefully considering the option to move to contract negotiations.'