RCS Council discussion on the junior doctors’ contract
09 Oct 2015
Yesterday (8 October 2015) the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England held a full and frank discussion on issues relating to the junior doctors’ contract.
Council recognised that there is a strongly held and widespread concern among trainees at the Government’s intention to impose a new contract. We recognise trainees have not felt as fully supported by the College as we had intended and apologise for this. We understand many of their concerns, particularly those surrounding the potential impact on patient care and safety. We commit to do more to support and communicate better with trainees.
This includes looking for opportunities to work with The Association of Surgeons in Training (ASIT) and the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association (BOTA) who are members of the RCS Council and have helped us understand the concerns of their members. We are keen to hear from our membership (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will also immediately plan a number of regional fora to which we will invite our members and fellows to listen to trainees’ concerns.
We fully support trainees and reiterate how vital they are to the NHS. We urge the Government to do more to value their professionalism.
While the current contract is not fit for purpose, a new contract must not be imposed and all parties should return to the negotiating table. There was an agreed view at Council that we must continue to have a well-motivated, committed and enthusiastic workforce for the benefit of patient care. Trainees are invaluable to the service. At present they are not always able to access the necessary training, while the shift system can undermine the ability to provide safe, effective, and high quality patient care. It was also recognised that today’s junior doctors face different pressures to previous generations, especially a high level of undergraduate debt.
The College has spoken with Government officials, NHS Employers, and the BMA over the past few weeks asserting our principles:
- The recognition of the fundamental contribution trainees make in delivering a safe and high quality NHS and the particular need for work life balance in specialties which cover 24/7.
- The imbalance of the current contract as many trainees, particularly in specialties where there is high intensity work patterns, cannot access training opportunities due to an over-reliance on service needs.
- Recognition of relevant transferable skills, clinical or academic in any assessment of seniority.
- The need to ensure surgery remains attractive, now and for the future, to young doctors; recognising the changing demographics of the workforce and the need to support part-time training.
The Council recognised our limitations to engage in the specifics of contract negotiations but believed the current impasse around the contract is not supporting the workforce. Council were united in the view that contract negotiations remain the only way forward and will look to work alongside other Colleges to maintain the quality of patient care in the UK.
This statement is supported by The Association of Surgeons in Training and the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association.