September marks a change of guard at the BMA junior doctors committee.
Many reps are stepping down because of their certificates of completion of training, have exams or just want a break, with new reps stepping up to take the helm.
It all starts at the regional junior doctors committees, known as RJDCs. This year they are all coordinating their AGMs to be in the week of 4 September.
Most people attending the RJDCs will have had no previous leadership or national politics experience. Most would not have had any involvement with the BMA apart from being members. More experienced junior doctor leaders would be at hand to train, support and nurture the newer members and to equip them with the skills needed to succeed.
The scope for involvement also varies. Some choose to be their local hospital reps. This is either as members of the local negotiating committee or as part of the Junior Doctors’ Forum. These positions empower them to help their colleagues immensely.
Recently, one of the hospital’s attempts to introduce a draconian locum clause to junior doctors was thwarted by robust LNC representation. Doctors working illegal and unsafe rotas have raised it and solved it. Gursh talks about the sweet feeling of securing back pay for junior doctors working an incorrectly banded rota. Hospitals that failed to introduce user-friendly exception-reporting mechanisms have been held to account by their Junior Doctors’ Forum reps.
Regionally the RJDCs have a big role to play. They usually have a strong relationship with their local deaneries and local education training boards. Last year one of the specialty training programmes decided to charge their trainees for attending mandatory training. Regional reps raised this directly with the deanery which accepted that this was unacceptable and quashed it. When foundation doctors reported being left unsupervised in emergency departments at another deanery, this was raised by regional reps, which triggered the dean himself to go and shadow a foundation trainee for the day. The relevant hospital was quick to put in corrective measures.
LTFT (Less than full time) trainees have traditionally been overlooked and their complex needs often not understood by the powers to be. The elected LTFT forum rep is in a powerful position to raise these issues directly with the local education providers as well as with national bodies such as Health Education England via the national LTFT forum. Christina talks about her experience as the Wessex’s rep to the LTFT forum.
Of course, RJDCs are also the place where people get elected to the national JDC and get to set the policy as well as lead the profession.
Where there isn’t a junior representing a trust, issues go unnoticed and junior doctors struggle with workload and unsafe conditions. This often leads to intense workload and low morale of junior doctors. Morale is at all time low with reported burnout levels very high. This is not safe for us. This certainly does not serve our patients.
To break the vicious cycle and change things for us and our colleagues, we all have a part to play. You can choose how big or small your part can be.
See you at the RJDC AGM.
Bala Karunakaran is chair of the national and regional junior doctors chairs' committee
Read more about the RJDC elections in England