Fair for doctors, good for patients
Posted on 1 February 2013 by Mark Porter
This week, I spoke at an event called Better Contracts, Better Care. The event was hosted by NHS Employers and provided an opportunity to put forward doctors’ views on the recent proposals to change the junior doctor contract, and to review consultant excellence awards and terms and conditions
I spoke about doctors like Hamish Brown, a consultant breast cancer surgeon at City Hospital in Birmingham. He was part of a team that redesigned their breast care service, reducing the average stay for women from five days to one, saving £300,000 a year and increasing patient satisfaction.
I spoke about junior doctors like Elizabeth Meredith, a core medical trainee, who helped instigate a project to improve the process for admitting GP referrals to the acute medical unit bringing about earlier assessment, and treatment of acutely unwell patients.
I made it clear to employers that doctors can help drive up quality while saving money and improving the patient experience. However, I also stressed that this is becoming increasingly difficult as we are faced with the biggest structural reorganisation of the NHS since its inception, a multi-year pay freeze, the introduction of revalidation, the reform of medical education and training and of course, major changes to public sector pensions that have hit doctors hard.
The government has set out its proposals to change the junior doctors’ contract, along with consultant excellence awards and terms and conditions. Rather than simply respond to its proposals, I set out our agenda by highlighting our concerns about the quality of training, working hours, the erosion of professionalism and clinical autonomy and the importance of supporting and rewarding innovation.
We are living in a tough economic climate but I was robust in my insistence that any changes to doctors’ contracts must not be approached as a cost-cutting exercise. We have not made any decision to negotiate changes to junior doctors or consultant contracts. However we are willing to have exploratory talks with NHS Employers so that we can carefully consider their proposals before making any decision to move to contract negotiations.
Your views will be central to our decision making process as the proposed changes could have a huge impact on our working lives. So read the information on our website to get an understanding of what is at stake and give us your views. Would you make changes to the current contracts? Where do you stand on seven day working debate? Do you think training should be part and parcel a new juniors’ contract?
Let us know what you think.
Mark Porter is chair of BMA council