The BMA to survey junior doctor members on job title name change

by The UK ‘Junior’ Doctors Committee 

Members to be surveyed on the proposal to rename ‘junior doctors’ as ‘resident doctors’.

Location: UK
Published: Friday 23 February 2024
BMA in the news Illustration
Rename ‘junior doctors’

The BMA will be surveying junior doctor members next week about a proposal to rename ‘junior doctors’ as ‘resident doctors’. Junior doctor members in the UK will receive a link to the BMA’s survey via text on Monday 26 February. The survey will then close at 9am on Friday 1 March. 


In the event that members support this change, the BMA will begin the processes necessary for it to be approved at its Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) in June 2024 and subsequently implemented. 


Here, the UK Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) sets out its reasoning for making this change which it feels is long overdue. 

 In April 2023, the Junior Doctors Conference voted to abolish the term ‘junior’ in our name. ‘Junior’ doctor implies that we’re students, apprentices, not fully qualified. It undersells the huge range of skills and responsibility we have, and some politicians have even used the term to undersell our role.

We initially sought to replace the term ‘junior doctors’ with ‘doctors’. Unfortunately, the request was denied by BMA UK Council largely due to concern that ‘doctors’ may lead to confusion between us and other groups (GPs, consultants, SAS doctors). Possible workarounds were cumbersome,  difficult to implement and risked people reverting to using ‘junior’ for ease. We needed a different term.  

 Some of the alternatives we often see bandied about are just as bad: ‘doctors in training’ or ‘postgraduate doctors in training’ still imply we’re not fully qualified (and leave out our colleagues in locally-employed or locum posts). ‘Postgraduate doctor’ doesn’t differentiate us from other branches of practice or even other professions, because every doctor is a postgraduate doctor, even a Physician Associate who holds a non-medical PhD. ‘Non-consultant hospital doctors’ - never mind being unwieldy - confuses us with our SAS colleagues. 

 So what term can we choose that allows ‘junior’ to be scrapped, while still avoiding confusing us with other colleagues, implying we’re unqualified, or being so convoluted that we can’t practically use it and slip back into calling ourselves ‘juniors’? 

 After careful and thorough consideration, we believe ‘resident’ is the best term we have to replace ‘junior’. It’s simple and inoffensive. It recognises the time we spend on the ground, keeping hospitals ticking, effectively residing there. It’s familiar, but also global: used in the US, Canada, Philippines, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and Australia. ‘Resident’ encompasses the whole branch in a new one-word term, whilst allowing us to keep the internal terms, such as ‘registrar’, that differentiate between grades. 

 We could, of course, debate the ‘perfect’ term indefinitely - and it could end up leading us nowhere. Professor Scarlett McNally tried to do just this: her report on how to replace the term ‘junior’ was years in the making, based on 2,000 survey responses, and the best new terms her report identified were ‘central doctors’ and ‘postgraduate doctors’.  

 The time to change our terminology is now, and it is our firm belief that ‘resident’ is the answer to scrapping ‘junior’. We are asking you to support this change, and move on from the demeaning, infantilising term with which we’ve been lumbered for so long.  

 We have seen more public appetite for this change than ever before. Let’s choose, get behind a new term, and continue working together to improve the profession for us and for generations to come.