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Two years ago, on the eve of contract negotiations, we took on the challenge of leading junior doctors. You looked to us to deliver a deal that you deserved. One year ago we told you about junior doctors trapped in working arrangements that were dysfunctional, distressing and unsafe. We told you about junior doctors striving to do better but seeing their training opportunities denied and a culture that reduces junior doctors simply to numbers on a rota masters spreadsheet.
We had hoped that negotiations would offer solutions to these issues, but we faced a Government whose only aspiration was to extract ever more from juniors: reducing safeguards on working hours, threatening high-quality training and ignoring basic rights that others take for granted.
And so we look back on a year in which we were forced to say no; no to training reforms that promote mediocrity and crush our aspirations, and no to a contract that endangered patient safety and ignored the realities of life as a junior.
But our hopes for a fairer, better contract have not been extinguished. The DDRB is due to report on our contract soon, and tough decisions lie ahead for the whole Association. We want a contract that values training, protects our patients by protecting doctors, recognises the contribution we make to the health service and one that is principled, safe and fair. We hope the Government does too.
As one profession, we are stronger together, and that’s why in December we stood shoulder to shoulder with fourteen trainee organisations. Together we called for a halt to the untested Shape of training reforms, and went on to secure a place on the Shape of Training steering group. We are using this position to fight any attempt to reduce the quality of our training. Our training must be rooted in an ethos of professional excellence.
But…it will not happen by cutting the length of training; it cannot happen by producing consultants in name only; it will not happen by removing pre-registration for new doctors. This must not happen!
It’s been a privilege to chair the Junior Doctors Committee for the last two years. During conversations with our colleagues we have been struck by the sense that so many juniors feel that their voice simply doesn’t matter. But it doesn’t have to be like this – we will continue to fight everything that holds junior doctors back from being the clinicians, the innovators, and the leaders we want to be and that our patients expect.
Together we are one profession; it’s all our futures, and in the difficult times ahead the BMA will be in every workplace securing that future. Whatever the challenges, we stand ready.
Andrew Collier and Kitty Mohan