Make a real difference to junior doctors’ lives

by Jeeves Wijesuriya

Joining a BMA committee can be an effective way of improving the terms and conditions of people working in the NHS

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 3 August 2021
Jeeves Wijesuriya 36732

During the junior doctor contract dispute in 2016, I got involved with the BMA as a local representative in East London.

Like many other junior doctors across England I was frustrated with government plans for our contract that were not safe or fair to us or our patients.

This led to me getting more involved and taking up a local role. This helped me meet and work with doctors from across North London, organising pickets, marches and even at one point a vigil during the industrial action.

I was frustrated with so many things about our working lives, but I knew that if I wanted to improve things I needed to get involved.

An old friend, who went on to become BMA junior doctors committee chair, Johann Malawana, encouraged me to join the UK JDC because of this work and because of my academic background in medical education.

I joined and ended up getting really involved in the education and training subcommittee of the BMA JDC which was responsible for trying to improve these aspects of our working lives.

I must admit, it ended up being a bit of a rollercoaster with everything that was happening at the time. I went through a selection process run by a specialist negotiation firm and was picked for training and to help with contract negotiations.

The BMA went through a really difficult period with the contract imposition, industrial action collapsing and a number of resignations. Somehow a year after this, having only joined a couple of years previously, I found myself as committee chair.

Being part of the JDC, especially during a difficult time, gave me additional experience in negotiation, communication, and strategy skills to name but a few.

You also work with incredible staff from regional staff, legal experts, contract experts but for me, the best bit is the amazing people you meet.

I was lucky enough to work with junior doctors from all over the UK, who share a desire to make things better for everyone and it was really satisfying to be able to work together to achieve that.

My main sense of achievement was going from the contract imposition and the chaos of not being in talks, to a new deal voted for by an 82% majority.

We changed how we negotiate, using experts and professional staff to find collaborative solutions with employers and government.

Doing this, changing our structures and getting input directly from regional representatives, helped us succeed where we had struggled before.

From creating the enhancing junior doctors working lives group, getting study budgets to cover all mandatory costs, getting ten million pounds for mess and rest facilities, achieving shared parental leave to make parents lives easier I know we managed to improve the lives of doctors.

That is before we even get into the £120m of new money we got invested into the contract, with trainees at specialty trainee 6 and above getting a 7.2k basic pay rise next October, or the increases to evening and weekend pay we managed to achieve.

  • Here are just some of the other things we managed to do:
  • £120m pounds worth of new investment
  • Guaranteed pay uplifts every year for the next four years
  • Increases to weekend pay and all shifts finishing after midnight
  • Increased pay for senior trainees
  • £1,000 a year for less-than full-time trainees
  • Extended pay protection, improved mileage, exception reporting extended to all educational ARCP requirements
  • Improved contractual non-resident on-call and less than full-time rostering processes
  • Extension and supernumerary status for GPs
  • Improved rest and safety entitlements.

I have seen first hand that the JDC makes a difference in virtually every aspect of our working lives. That is equally important not just nationally, but locally where you can directly support your friends and colleagues with the issues they face day to day in our trusts and practices.

So, if you want to affect real change, meet people that share that passion and develop the skills to make it happen rather than talking about it from the side lines – nominating yourself for the regional junior doctor committee elections is a great place to start.

Find out more about nominating and voting in this year’s election

Nominations open: 19 July 1pm to 9 August 1pm. Voting opens: 9 August to 23 August.

Jeeves Wijesuriya is the BMA junior doctors committee former chair JDC (2016-2019) and co-chair of the North Thames JDC