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Feature Briefing

Problems with the junior doctors’ contract: how did we get here?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5183
  1. Tom Moberly, editor, BMJ Careers
  1. Correspondence to: T Moberly tmoberly{at}

As junior doctors prepare to vote on strike action, Tom Moberly explains why negotiations have broken down

Why is the contract being changed?

The current contract for doctors in training was implemented in 2000. In December 2012, the government accepted the recommendations of a report from NHS Employers that the contract needed to be renegotiated.1 NHS Employers, which negotiates on behalf of the government, said that the current contract was “no longer fit for purpose.” The current banding system is complex and makes it difficult for hospitals to predict their financial requirements. NHS Employers argued that the pay system should be updated to be more in line with that of other industries. It argued that pay for trainees should be weighted more towards basic pay than banding.

When did negotiations start?

In June 2013, the BMA and NHS Employers agreed the basis for discussion over a new contract for junior doctors.2 They said they would discuss pay, working hours, and how much time junior doctors spent in training rather than delivering services. Formal negotiations over a new junior doctors’ contract, as well as a new consultants’ contract, began four months later, in …

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