Contract Junior doctor England

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Rostering guidance - overview


In negotiations on a new junior doctor contract in 2016, a comprehensive set of new working hour limits and rest requirements were introduced at the request of the BMA. These rules incorporate the statutory requirements of the Working Time Regulations into the contract and go beyond these in some cases.

It was acknowledged that these new rules would require many existing rotas and working patterns to change to make them compliant, and that it was important the new rules were understood correctly by employers and doctors so that new rotas took on board both the spirit and the letter of the new requirements.

In light of this it was written into the contract, and the ACAS agreement published when negotiations concluded, that the BMA and NHS Employers would jointly develop guidance on good rostering practices.

Download the Good rostering guidance (PDF)



The guidance has now been finalised and published on NHS Employers' website, and they will be promoting its use to individual employers.

It is a comprehensive explanation of how the new contractual rules can be used most effectively to ensure rotas are designed and managed in a way that allows doctors to meet their training needs, avoid fatigue and overwork and maintain work-life balance, while allowing employers to deliver the service.

The guidance has many elements that are specific to the requirements of the new 2016 contract for trainee doctors currently in use in England, but there are many underlying principles throughout that would apply helpfully when rostering all types of doctor.

We've developed it in consultation with our junior doctors committee (JDC) and our various specialty groups to ensure the guidance provides practical and workable solutions that we hope will have a positive impact.

Download the overview (PDF)


Key highlights

  • Clear instruction that rotas should be designed in a way that considers the negative implications of fatigue for both doctors and patients.
  • Requirement that any significant changes to a live roster should be done with 6 weeks' notice to the doctors affected and that existing approved leave requests should be honoured.
  • Clarification that the contractual rule that no doctor should work more than 72 hours in any 7 day period should not be measured across 7 calendar days, midnight to midnight, but across any 168 hour period (the number of hours in 7 days).
  • Dedicated guidance on how to best design and manage LTFT rotas, with a requirement that every effort should be made to provide set working day patterns for LTFT trainees who request them and that any proposed changes to set working days take into account the notice period required to change care provider arrangements.
  • Requirement that rotas should be designed and managed collaboratively between employers and doctors working the rota, and that doctors responsible for this should be allocated sufficient time to do so.
  • Clarification that a doctor can only be required to undertake additional duties in the event of unforeseen staff sickness if the employer has had less than 48 hours' notice of the issue.
  • Requirement that approved study leave for courses that take place on non-working days should be compensated by time off in lieu.

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