We came to last year’s annual representative meeting having been severely tested.
A government that would not listen, proposed a contract that would not work. Its actions had forced us to take unprecedented industrial action with an overwhelming mandate from our members, with support from across the profession and public.
Together we overturned the most damaging proposals that threatened safety and put whole specialties at risk. But many other concerns remain.
As we met last year, junior doctors made their choice. The result was a split in opinion and a divided membership. Forty-two per cent of junior doctors in support, 58 per cent against, and a majority of medical students in favour. The clear message to the government was, that it had not done enough to address our concerns.
Instead, this government pressed ahead with imposition. That made us angry, it made our members angry. And It should make the public angry every time the government ignores the evidence and carries on regardless, just as they have in so many other parts of the health service.
They vilified our junior doctors, just as they have vilified GPs, senior hospital doctors and every hard-pressed member of NHS staff.
But being angry and angry alone is not enough.
The BMA has represented doctors for almost 200 years. We are here, not only for strikes. We are here to challenge, defend and build bridges. We are here to support our members at all times.
We’ve challenged the [chief executive] of Health Education England [Ian Cumming] who so lazily stereotyped a generation of doctors and their attitude to work-life balance.
The irony of this being all of the work we currently do with people in this organisation to improve the flexibility of training. We could not and did not let this stand.
So while the height of the dispute was intense and testing, so too have been the days that followed. While the way we conducted ourselves under intense media scrutiny was important, so too is how we conduct ourselves and deliver for junior doctors now, away from the spotlight.
We have been able to rebuild relationships with NHS organisations and make steady but significant gains. These include an additional pay uplift for unbanded F2 doctors. Let’s be clear - that puts new money into the contract.
We have begun the work to set up a gender pay gap review that will explore and make recommendations on pay for all women doctors, not just juniors.
And after pursuing it for a decade, we have agreed a new code of practice so that junior doctors will have the information they need in advance of starting new jobs.
There is a huge body of additional work in a wide range of areas – on work scheduling, applications to specialty training and highlighting rota gaps.
But there is still so much more to do. That’s why exception reporting empowers trainees to flag when they are overworked or miss training opportunities so we can resolve the underlying causes. When it comes to exception reporting; there must be no exceptions.
Last year, the profession came together, rallying behind junior doctors in protests and on picket lines. RB – now more than ever, we, junior doctors, need your support in using this new system to identify the systemic problems we all face.
The picket lines may have ended, but our resolve remains, and our reps have taken that resolve into local negotiating committees, and junior doctor fora around the country.
We must not and will not be intimidated by employers from exercising our hard-won contractual rights. I and the JDC and will stand shoulder to shoulder with junior doctors as they do so; amplifying their voices to illustrate where a health service at breaking point most needs intervention.
So, RB, let me leave you with this, the hard work must go on. It is painstaking and rarely makes headlines, but we are delivering real results.
We are still here, we are still listening and we will continue to build brick by brick, on the tangible progress we have made this year.
The need for unity is as great as ever. It’s a long, hard road, but, together, we can lift up our profession once again.
This is an edited version of BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya’s speech to the BMA annual representative meeting in Bournemouth.
I couldnt agree more that profession has to unite. Sad reality is our profession has never united. Sadly club culture, old boys network is rife in our NHS and also in BMA. I tried to tell BMA for 10 years the importance of equality and inclusion, bad treatment of many Black and Minority Ethnic staff including doctors. I also tried to tell BMA importance of we as doctors taking on leadership role. Sadly we have let managers and nurses dominate NHS leadership. Today NHS is in crisis. NHS needs good leaders and doctors have the great ability to be leaders. NHS and Social care are two great Jewels in our crown. It needs great leaders to transform and make them the safest and the best. In Wigan we reduced harm to patients by 90% simply by appointing some great medical leaders with good governance, excellent staff and patient engagement.
STP, 5 years plan and Devolution Manchester gives us fantastic opportunity to transform both NHS and Social care safest and the best, provided we get good leaders that too good medical leaders. Good leaders create great team and put patients at the heart, create great team and create a culture of staff happiness and create a great team.
NHS has them and Us culture and we work in silos and we waste lot of money and patients, staff and NHS suffers!
Yes unity of profession is important but as long as we have club culture, old boys network in BMA and NHS and same old leaders saying same old things, nothing is going to change.
Time has come from profession to unite, professiom to work with the NHS leaders and transform NHS and make it safest and the best and together we can do it provided we appoint right leaders with good governance and good investment in IT and transform both NHS and Social care.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast but sadly poor leadership eats culture for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Good leaders create good culture, excellent team and everyone works for common purpose and wins for the greater good.