As I am sure you are aware, the UK Secretary of State for Health recently announced plans to reform junior doctors' contracts in NHS England.
In a statement to Parliament on 4 November, the Secretary of State outlined plans for reforming junior doctors' contracts. This included an increase in basic salary from £22,636 to £25,500 and a redefining of social working hours from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday to 7am-10pm Monday to Friday and 7am-7pm Saturday. These changes will have a direct impact on the take-home pay, work/life balance and time available for training for junior doctors and could potentially make the profession less attractive to doctors in the UK.
As a Royal College we do not have responsibility for negotiating contracts. Since our founding more than 400 years ago, our priority has been maintaining the highest standards of patient care. We are concerned that the consequences of imposing the current proposals on junior doctors could jeopardise the future of the NHS by undervaluing and de-motivating a group of doctors already under significant pressure. This will have a direct impact on patient care.
I, along with the Presidents of the other Royal Colleges in Scotland, wrote to the Secretary of State in September expressing our concerns regarding his initial proposed changes to junior doctors' contracts. We believe the amended proposals announced on 4 November do not go far enough to address the concerns raised by our Colleges and the junior doctors themselves.
Our College believes the proposed imposition of the trainee doctors' contract is impacting upon the profession more widely, adversely affecting morale, and increasing pressure on staff working in a challenging environment. We are already facing a recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS which needs to be addressed to ensure patient care is protected. Our trainees will be the future leaders of NHS teams and it is crucial that the services they provide as they train are fully recognised.
In order to deliver innovative models of care, expand the delivery of services across seven days, increase NHS efficiency, and continue to lead the world in innovation and research, we must support and value the people who are going to deliver this. Medical and surgical trainees provide vital and valued care to patients and we must do all we can to ensure successful recruitment and retention - we must focus on attracting doctors and not driving them away.
We have also liaised with the surgical colleges across the UK and issued a joint statement with them, again raising concern about the unrest being felt across the profession.
We believe the solution will not come with industrial action, which has the potential to have damaging effects on both the profession and our patients. We urge all involved to re-engage in negotiations without pre-conditions to work together to yield a positive outcome for all.
Professor Frank Dunn CBE, President
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