Dr Matthew Prior, Chair of the Trainees’ Committee writes:
This month is mainly about referendums, but which is most important for trainees in obstetrics and gynaecology? On Thursday 23 June the UK voted on the question of whether to remain in or leave the European Union, and between 17 June and 1 July junior doctors are voting on the new contract agreement. Both have been hotly debated, and have been confusing to those making the decision. Nonetheless, after deep consideration I voted to remain in the EU, and will be voting yes to the new contract.
The junior doctor contract dispute has taken up a lot of my time and energy over the past year. What was originally proposed was unsafe, unfair and an attempt to belittle the medical profession. I think the government thought junior doctors would be a walk over – they were wrong. Nonetheless, there must be resolution to all conflicts and both sides have now made reasonable concessions. Yes, it could be better, but I believe the new contract has a lot of positives that are worth consideration. Salaries will be front loaded to protect those who take time out of training for maternity leave or out of program – this is very important in our specialty.
There are also many opportunities for training, which is now firmly embedded into the contract. For the first time, an exception reporting system will identify when there are issues relating to training, including when training opportunities are missed. The next steps will be to ensure that this new contract works in practice to benefit trainees, training and ultimately patients. There is no shortage of analysis out there (EMTA, BOTA), but in the end it is your decision.
It is similar with the European Union – it isn’t perfect, but I still believe it is much better than the alternative, as the events since the results were announced demonstrate. We should learn from the division and turmoil that has resulted from the vote to leave the EU: we are much better to be in, voting yes to the new junior doctor contract and working together for a better future than to withdraw. Governments will come and go, but we are the future of medicine and the NHS. Patients rely on us to tackle these future challenges and continue to lead a world class health service.