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Juniors call on consultants to reject new contract

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 22 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1478
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. London

    Junior doctors say they cannot support the proposed new consultant contract and have called for doctors' leaders to go back to the negotiating table.

    At their annual conference in London last week, junior doctors admitted that some of aspects of the new contract signalled progress, but there were still many elements they were unhappy with.

    Among their top grievances was an increase of consultant hours which offered them little reprieve from their junior hours. Under the new contract the normal working day was being extended to 10 pm Monday to Friday and from 9 am to 1 pm at weekends.

    In addition, the new contract lacks flexibility for doctors who may wish to work less than full time. Juniors complained that the new contract failed to spell out how doctors who opt to work part time—either to help bring up their family or to pursue other interests—would be affected, especially in terms of career structure.

    Although they have no voting rights with regard to the new contract, junior doctors have been campaigning for specialist registrars to have a vote in a contract ballot as it is they who will have to live with its consequences in the years to come.

    Commenting on junior doctors' views expressed at the conference, Dr Trevor Pickersgill, chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, said: “The proposed new contract for consultants has some benefits for doctors, but there are a number of important areas that doctors in training are unable to support.

    “For many years, junior doctors fought hard to have fair pay for working out of hours. The recently introduced new contract for junior doctors at last gave them fair remuneration for working antisocial hours. Yet the proposed new contract for consultants will give them the same rate of pay for working on a weekend or evening as it would for working nine to five on a weekday.

    “We are also very unhappy that new consultants are to be treated less favourably. Junior doctors find a number of important areas unacceptable and are therefore unable to commend the proposals as they currently stand. We believe the consultants' negotiating team must reopen negotiations with the Department of Health to rectify the problem areas.”

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