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Dr Bethan Roberts is Chair of the BMA Welsh Junior Doctors Committee
With the August changeover period upon us, I thought this would be an opportune time to remind doctors in Wales of the importance of understanding your terms and conditions of service.
You will be aware that many junior doctors in England are now subject to a different contract. Junior doctors working in Wales remain subject to the Terms and Conditions of Service (2002), colloquially known as the New Deal.
Your contract of employment is an important legal document - once signed, its contents are binding. You should receive your contract within two months of starting with a new employer. If you haven't received this, contact the BMA for assistance. You can also ask the BMA to check your contract before you sign it.
In Wales, working hours are defined on a template rota and working hours are scrutinised through rota monitoring.
We know that a number of you have concerns about your working hours and about how monitoring is (or isn’t) working for you. Here are some ways to make sure that you are working according to your banding.
Get your template rota
You will be issued with a rota of your shifts but you are entitled to ask for a copy of the template rota on which this is based. The template rota has to comply with contractual and European Working Time Regulations and will show all the shift start and finish times for your day to day work and on-call work; non-working days such as weekends or compensatory rest days; and will show an average weekly working time.
It is important that your actual rota matches your template rota - if your actual rota hours are higher than your template rota, your rota may not be compliant. Report to your seniors if your actual rota does not match your template rota. You may need to request a rota monitoring exercise (also known as a “diary card” exercise). If you find that you are persistently working beyond your contracted hours, you can request a rota monitoring exercise. You can also contact the BMA for further advice.
Know your shift pattern
Knowing how you work will help you complete monitoring. There are a number of different shift patterns such as full shifts, partial shifts, on-call rotas and hybrid shifts (a mixture of shift patterns). For on-call, your responsibilities may be full-shift (what we typically call an “on-call” shift where you stay in the hospital for the duration of your shift) or non-resident on-call (where you will be off-site for part or all of your shift but contactable for the duration of the shift apart from defined periods of rest).
Know what is a break and what is rest
On a full-shift rota, you are entitled to a 30-minute break after approximately four hours of work. This is called a natural break and counts as work. A natural break is not rest and should not be recorded as rest during a period of monitoring. “Rest” is a feature of non-residential on-call working where you are entitled to periods of rest when you are not contacted. The nature of our work means that full breaks are not guaranteed on 100% of occasions but there is an expectation that doctors will get at least 75% of their expected breaks. If you are not getting these, you can request a rota monitoring exercise.
From the survey of junior doctors in Wales that the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee (WJDC) undertook last year, significant numbers of you told us that monitoring isn’t working for you. WJDC is working with the UK Junior Doctors Committee, Welsh Government and the General Medical Council to see if we can improve the way that monitoring works for junior doctors. We will be sending more information soon on how to get the most out of a rota monitoring exercise and how to make it work. In the meantime, you may find the BMA’s advice on monitoring helpful: