The BMA has welcomed substantial improvements for junior doctors in England in a number of areas – including flexible working and supported return to training – outlined in a report published today.
The Enhancing Junior Doctors’ Working Lives1 progress report1 from Health Education England (HEE) provides updates on a number of key initiatives and guarantees that the BMA has been fighting for since 2016.
Two years ago, the BMA identified a number of issues during junior doctors’ contract negotiations that were not able to be resolved through discussions with NHS Employers. These covered a range of areas from flexibility, late notification of rotas, a distinct lack of support for education and more.
As part of a working group chaired by HEE and attended by NHS Employers, the GMC and the Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA’s junior doctors committee pushed these issues forward, shaping progress to make sure that it matches the needs of trainees.
An initial report was published in 2017, but today’s publication marks an important milestone in assessing the success of these projects a year on.
Key achievements include2:
- Greater transparency over study budgets and a larger breadth of access to courses required by the curriculum;
- An annual and recurring £10m fund to support junior doctors return to the clinical environment after extended time away;
- A commitment from HEE to implement recommendations from its review into ARCP – the annual assessment that decides whether junior doctors can progress into the next stage of training;
- Stronger rules on how trusts must adhere to the Code of Practice, including giving adequate notice for rota changes;
- Further flexibility in the recruitment process, allowing trainees to change their rotation preferences if their circumstances change, as well as improvements for applicants with specific health needs.
In a joint statement Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, and Dr Sarah Hallett, BMA junior doctors committee deputy co-chair (education and training), said:
“We welcome the publication of the second progress report from the 'Enhancing Junior Doctors' Working Lives' group by Health Education England today. The work that this committee has overseen since the inception of these projects during the junior doctor contract dispute two years ago has contributed to some of the most significant changes to postgraduate medical training for a number of years.
“Junior doctors are an integral part of the NHS workforce, providing invaluable care in some of the most challenging environments, and all-too-often systems fail to value the lives of the people behind the jobs. It is therefore positive to see progress being made in areas that aim to address the needs of individual junior doctors.
"The projects detailed in this report range from those aimed at increasing flexibility to improving the support available to trainees throughout their careers. They include changes to the study budget system in England to improve access to funds for training; increased access to LTFT training; pre-allocation of trainees with special circumstances to convenient placements; a review of the ARCP system in England; supporting trainees back into the clinical workplace after time out, and much more.
“While it is clear that many issues still exist, including with educational supervision, diminishing mentorship, and the ever-greater demands of a system under pressure, it is positive that this work has received the investment, time and collaborative working to bring about change. The BMA will continue to lobby for further necessary change as the work of this group continues."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
1. Read the full report.
2. Find more information from the BMA on the progress made here.