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Junior doctors vote against BMA-negotiated contract deal



Junior doctors and medical students in England have voted to reject the new contract deal by a clear majority.

With a turnout of 68% – around 37,000 junior doctors and medical students – 42% voted in favour of the contract, while 58% voted against, the BMA said.

It added that following the results of the referendum, Junior Doctor Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana will quit his post.

Dr Malawana said: ‘The result of the vote is clear, and the government must respect the informed decision junior doctors have made. Any new contract will affect a generation of doctors working for the NHS in England, so it is vital that it has the confidence of the profession.

‘Given the result, both sides must look again at the proposals and there should be no transition to a new contract until further talks take place.’

It comes as Pulse reported last month on an online poll suggesting 57% of junior doctors would reject the deal negotiated by the BMA and the Government.

The vote to accept or reject the compromise contract deal was open to junior doctors and final and penultimate year medical students in England who are members of the BMA.

The results come as Dr Malawana and the JDC have toured the country holding some 130 roadshows, informing voters about the deal reached.

Dr Malawana said: ‘Having spoken to many junior doctors across the country in recent weeks it was clear that, while some felt the new contract represented an improved offer, others had reservations about what it would mean for their working lives, their patients and the future delivery of care in the NHS. There was also considerable anger and mistrust towards the government’s handling of this dispute.

‘These concerns need to be fully addressed before any new contract can come into effect and, in light of the result, I believe a new chair will be better placed to lead on this work.’

The negotiated deal had been the culmination of a long dispute about a new contract, including six days of industrial action, which the Government hailed as ‘historic’ and would pave way for better coverage on weekends.

Dr Malawana added that there will be ‘much to do in order to rebuild the trust that has been eroded over the last year’.

He said: ‘The Government must now do the right thing, accept the outcome of this vote and work constructively with the BMA to address junior doctors’ concerns with the new contract.’

The deal to which the JDC had agreed had included compromises from the Government with regards to the reduction of increased pay for working unsociable hours, especially on Saturdays.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said: ‘I am profoundly disappointed the BMA has rejected the proposed new contract for junior doctors. It is imperative that patients will not be made to suffer any further impact as a result of the rejection of the contract.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘It is extrememly disappointing that junior doctors have voted against this contract, which was agreed with and endorsed by the leader of the BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee and supported by senior NHS leaders.

‘The BMA’s figures show that only 40% of those eligible actually voted against this contract, and a third of BMA members didn’t vote at all. We will now consider the outcome.’

A poll by GP Dr Hamed Kahn last month predicted that the contract would be rejected.

Dr Khan told Pulse the outstanding concerns ‘centred around the effectiveness of the “guardian” in ensuring that doctors hours ad rota patterns are safe and reasonable, the fact that there is no pay increase between ST3 and ST8, despite the increase in responsibility and defence fees, and the whole “fidelity” concept which seems to restrict on junior doctors in terms of where they can locum and the rates they can command.’

The junior doctor contract row

The negotiations on the new junior doctors contract stretch back to 2013, but reached a peak in 2015 when the Conservative Government was elected on a mandate pledging a ‘seven-day NHS’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed doctors hours need reforming to address 6,000 preventable deaths caused by fewer staff working at weekends.

However the BMJ study which Mr Hunt cited said it would be misleading to claim staff numbers caused deaths, and other studies have argued the findings were a ‘statistical artefact’ or found no risk.

Mr Hunt fuelled the dispute when pledging to unilaterally impose the contract in the face of junior doctors anger.

98% of junior doctors voted to support industrial action in the dispute over weekend and evening working hours, saying the changes would be unsafe for patients and doctors.

The compromise settlement – which has now been rejected – was reached in May after three days of strike action, including the first withdrawal of emergency care by junior doctors in the NHS’s history.