Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Problems with the new junior doctor contract

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 23 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5077

Rapid Response:

Further concerns that the junior doctors contract proposals will negatively impact on women in surgery

The Association of Surgeons in Training would like to voice our concerns on the new contract proposed by the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists (DDRB) and NHS Employers (1). Aside from the exceptional risks it poses to patient safety and quality of surgical training within the UK, the contract will erode the positive steps made towards the recruitment, retention and equality of women in surgery. This is particularly pertinent given the success of the #ILookLikeASurgeon social media campaign earlier this year, which had 2,700 tweets, 36,800 retweets and a tweet reach of 8.3 million.

Despite the increasing feminisation of the medical workforce there is evidence to suggest that females entering senior positions in surgery lag behind their counterparts in other specialties. Females account for only 10% of all Consultant Surgeons, in comparison they total just under half of registered General Practitioners and a third of Consultant Physicians (2-3). However this trend is changing, in 2012, 16% of those within higher surgical training programmes were female (4) , rising to 28.8% in 2015 (5).

The proposals made would financially penalise those doctors taking time out of training to have a family. The Association of Surgeons in Training feels strongly that this would have a devastating effect on the retention of women within surgical training and would be deleterious to the diversity of the surgical workforce. We urge the Department of Health to reconsider the imposition of the contract as it currently stands.

1. DDRB. Contract reform for consultants and doctors & dentists in training – supporting healthcare services seven days a week 2015; (last accessed 25th September 2015)

2. NHS Hospitals and Community Health Services: Medical and Dental Staff, England 1997-2007. Leeds, UK: The information Centre for Health and Social Care, 2008.

3. General Medical Council. The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2013. (accessed 25th September 2015)

4. McNally S. Surgical training: still very competitive, but still very male. Ann R Coll Surg Engl (Suppl) 2012; 94: 53–55.

5. Joint Committee on Surgical Training

Competing interests: Authors are members of the Executive Council of the Association of Surgeons in Training

24 September 2015
Rhiannon L Harries
H Mohan, P Sinclair
Association of Surgeons in Training
35-43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PE