The right to speak out is fundamental for junior doctors. Patient safety, the quality of care and the maintenance of high-quality training all depend on trainees being able to voice concerns when they arise and without fear of recrimination.
At the BMA junior doctors committee this week, we committed a substantial amount of time to review in detail the current protections for whistleblowers, and specifically the agreement negotiated between the BMA and Health Education England last year.
Junior doctors in England have always been protected from any unfair treatment by their NHS employer when raising protected disclosures (whistleblowing). But last year’s agreement went further, by introducing extensive protections to protect junior doctors from any detrimental treatment by Health Education England due to making such disclosures.
The protections, broader than likely to be possible via statutory change, covers doctors within GP, foundation or specialty training, and appointed by HEE to either the new or old junior doctor contracts; a contract with a foundation trust not under national T&Cs; a contract for GP, foundation or specialty training not under national T&Cs, or applicants applying to or re-entering training under these contracts or, importantly, taking time out of programme.
These junior doctors (termed ‘postgraduate trainees’ in the agreement), now have:
- Protection equivalent to that provided if they were ‘workers’ of HEE
- More time to bring a claim of detriment against HEE, extending the period to six months
- No requirement to undergo conciliation before bringing a claim
- Increased scope for recovery of legal costs
- Additional protection when applying to commence or recommence training and when taking time out of programme.
Following a detailed and very informative presentation from leading barristers Sarah Keogh and John Hendy QC, the JDC this week passed a motion that it is ‘satisfied with the protection for junior doctors in England in relation to public interest disclosures as offered by the agreement reached with HEE’ and is ‘satisfied that seeking changes to statute to afford HEE Section 43k employer status under PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act) comes with the risk of reducing the scope of the current protections and therefore does not require the BMA to lobby for this change at this time’. The BMA is now working to extend these protections throughout the devolved nations.
You can find out much more about the BMA/HEE agreement here, which includes full guidance on the agreement, FAQs and legal opinions from a range of leading employment law barristers.
Whistleblowing has come under significant attention in recent years. No doctor wants to find themselves in a situation where they have to whistleblow, but for a very small minority, this is their last available option. The BMA has extensive advice on raising concerns, all of which can be found here.
Jeeves Wijesuriya is chair of the BMA junior doctors committee
The BMA was founded in part because of the resistance of the medical 'powers that be' in London to the needs of doctors in the periphery. Those pioneers were, in effect, whistleblowers. Congratulations Charles Hastings.
When I qualified, JDs were represented by a 'Group council', and, having no statutory committee, had to negotiate through the consultants' committee!
Eventually, the BMA graciously granted JDs a committee of their own.
I founded the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association to provide a vehicle for identifying poor training programmes. Thirty years later it is a very effective organisation.
JDs remain vulnerable to victimisation if they speak out - but BMA retired members are 'fireproof' and can, and will, raise issues locally on behalf of JDs. just let us know what the issues are!
(Richard Rawlins, chair of retired members conference).
I think I need say no more.
Yes, but how do Junior Doctors access support, the moment the deanery take action and the GMC are involved, the BMA backs out or runs away
Hello, thanks for your comment. We advise, support and represent members who believe that as a result of raising a concern they may have suffered a detriment. In total from March 2015 to July 2017 we have supported some 221 doctors in this regard.
We have advice elsewhere on our website for doctors who wish to raise concerns in their workplace, including how to access support - www.bma.org.uk/.../raising-concerns
Hope this is useful, Jon (BMA staff)
Can you trust the BMA to mark their own homework?
I am sure that those that know my story will have an idea what my answer to that question might be, but this post is not really about I think.
Last week the BMA Junior Doctor Committee passed a motion of satisfaction in the way the BMA has chosen to protect junior doctors from whistleblowing detriment, [The JDC chair decided to write a blog about it which can be read here. ](www.bma.org.uk/.../the-right-to-speak-out)
This new found enthusiasm from the JDC on its approach to whistleblowing protection came from an address that they had received from Old Square Barristers Chambers on the recent BMA agreement with the Government to plug an apparent gap in whistleblowing law affecting junior doctors and contractor workers. The problem is, that this rather convincing talk came from same barristers' chambers that had led the BMA to deny the existence of the gap in the law that they are now proposing to have solved. The advice from Old Square also seemed to have led Dr Mark Porter to release emails that he encouraged people to share undermining my case. These included statements that indicated that my now successful appeal to the Court of Appeal to safeguard statutory whistleblowing protection for junior doctors, was "lacking in merit and no longer relevant", this is despite the Lord Justice granting leave 1 month previously describing it as "clearly arguable" and "raising a matter of importance".
You may wish to read the witness statement of the CEO of the intervening third party in my Court of Appeal case, Public Concern At Work. It comments in the public interest, on the damage the Government/HEE's arguments in my case, facilitated by the BMA, did to whistleblowing law before they were squashed by our team in May 2017. [Statement](54000doctors.org/.../witness-statement-of-cathryn-james.html)
The witness statement by the CEO of PCAW, may add context and credibility to PCAW's robust criticism of the BMA in a paper recently released. [paper.](54000doctors.org/.../pcaw-whistleblowing-rights-for-junior-doctors-in-training-clear-as-mud-img.html)
This video takes you through the BMA's role in all of this. The profession must decide whether it trusts the BMA to mark its own homework or whether it is receptive to an opinion from independent experts.
The BMA anticipate a big civil suit for breaching your membership rights. They would rather spend this money on their navel-gazing projects and propaganda, but they will not say this of course.
I will circulate your video sir as widely as I am able.