This week marks a momentous occasion as we open the referendum on the 2021 specialty doctor and new specialist grade contracts.
If this contract package is approved by BMA staff, associate specialist and specialty doctor members in Wales in this referendum, two new contracts will be introduced in Wales, unlocking Welsh Government investment in SAS doctors and providing career progression within the SAS grade to the new specialist role.
Throughout 2020, the BMA was engaged in negotiations with Welsh Government and NHS Wales Employers alongside counterpart organisations in England and Northern Ireland on contract reform. Through the hard work and dedication of our negotiating team and BMA staff, we were able to continue making progress throughout the coronavirus pandemic when negotiation meetings transferred online.
In December, negotiations concluded on the contract package of the two new contracts. In Wales we had further discussions with Welsh Government and NHS Wales Employers on how to use the once-in-a-generation opportunity of contract reform to move forward on an agenda of improving SAS doctor working lives, building on the SAS charter and Wales Good Practice Guide.
We were able to update members on details of the new contracts at two virtual roadshow events which took place last week. Hopefully many of you were able to attend and had an opportunity to pose any questions you had to me and my WSASC colleagues.
If not, please take the opportunity to read through the framework agreement and other materials we have provided to inform members about the contracts. If you still have questions, write to [email protected] where we will be able to give you more information.
The new contracts represent an important milestone for SAS doctors, further building the grades as a fulfilling and positive career choice. With new safeguards against fatiguing rotas, increased recognition of on-call work, and a shorter pay scale with higher early-career earnings, there is much to benefit specialty doctors in the new contract. And with the introduction of the specialist grade, there is finally an opportunity for progression for highly experienced specialty doctors.
Naturally, there are drawbacks too to the new contracts, principally the extension of plain time hours by two hours to 7am to 9pm on weekdays. However, all doctors on the existing contracts get to choose whether they move over to the new contracts, meaning your choice in this referendum is about whether you, and others, should have the opportunity to make that choice. This is why WSASC has chosen to endorse this deal, and would urge you to vote in favour of it.
From Monday 8 February BMA SAS members in Wales will have the opportunity to vote on the referendum in an electronic ballot and should have received voting information. New members must join by 21 February 2021 to vote. The result will be announced following the close of voting on Monday 1 March.
Find out more about the negotiations and how to cast your vote
The contract package for SAS doctors in England and Northern Ireland are in the final stages of sign off. Find out more about the negotiations
Ali Nazir is chair of the Welsh staff, associate specialist and specialty doctor committee for BMA Cymru Wales