Staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors will be able to have their say on a contract deal which will see the introduction of a new specialty doctor contract and a specialist grade contract.
The new contracts, which will be put to the vote in a referendum, are the result of extensive negotiations between the BMA, NHS Employer organisations and the departments of health and social care of the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, and NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Among the terms of the new contracts are a commitment to clearer career frameworks and greater recognition, new safeguards to protect work-life balance and enhanced pay and provisions for shared parental leave and child bereavement leave.
The introduction of a new specialist grade will allow specialty doctors the opportunity for greater career progression and recognition.
Endorse the deal
Speaking about the negotiations, SASC co-chair Rajesh Kumar said the contracts addressed SAS doctors’ long-standing demands relating to pay and progression and urged his colleagues to endorse the deal in this month's vote.
He said: ‘This new contract is a great opportunity to improve the pay, working conditions and open up progression opportunities for specialty doctors, thereby making it a positive career choice.
‘For several years, the two big asks by our SAS colleagues was to improve the salary structure of specialty doctors and reopen the associate specialist post. We have done better than that.
‘We have secured not only substantial improvements to salary rates but have also succeeded in bringing in a series of important safeguards around working conditions.
‘We have also opened a new grade of expert decision makers also called the grade “specialist” which they truly deserve.
‘Whilst in any negotiation there is a degree of trade-off, something which we had to accept in this negotiation as well in respect of the extension of plain time hours, we are overall extremely pleased and confident SAS doctors will vote for this contract overwhelmingly.’
While negotiations for the contract offers were concluded in December and put to local SAS committees, the process has been slightly delayed in Northern Ireland while the BMA waits for the terms of the contract to be approved by the country’s employers. It is hoped this will happen within the next few days.
While the new contracts will not apply to SAS doctors in Scotland, the BMA has continued to engage with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland employers, over planned negotiations for a reform of the specialty doctor grade.
To this end, BMA Scotland SASC chair Bernie Scott has confirmed a timeline for Scottish negotiations, including an indicative implementation date, is in the process of being agreed with the Scottish Government.
The specialty doctor and associate specialist contracts were last negotiated in 2008.
Ask your question
Ahead of the referendum, doctors had the opportunity to find out more and pose questions about the new contracts at a series of online roadshows hosted by the BMA, which took place earlier this month.
A referendum on the new contracts will be carried out, voting in which will be open to all SAS grade BMA members.
For the referendum in Wales, new BMA members must have joined by 21 February to obtain a vote, with the result of the referendum to be announced shortly after voting closes on 1 March. For the referendum in England, new BMA members must have joined by 7 March to obtain a vote, with the result of the referendum announced after voting closes on 15 March.
Should the new contracts be endorsed by the referendum, the decision for existing SAS doctors to move over to a new contract or remain on existing terms would not be automatic and would be left to the discretion of individual SAS doctors.