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RCOG statement: Imposition of junior doctors' contract

News 12 February 2016

The Secretary of State for Health confirmed yesterday the imposition of a new contract for NHS junior doctors from August 2016.

Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“Yesterday’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Health that the government will impose a new contract on junior doctors is a sad day for both the NHS and for patients. We are extremely disappointed that it has not been possible to reach a settlement in the dispute and that such an unprecedented move has been taken to impose a contract on NHS staff that has not been negotiated.

“Obstetrics and gynaecology are high-intensity emergency specialties with doctors already working 24/7. This contract will not make any difference to that commitment. The majority of care is delivered by junior doctors and our support for them remains unequivocal. The RCOG has highlighted the 20% attrition rate in our specialty as well as the gaps in trainee rotas due to time out for academic research, flexible working or maternity leave. Imposing a contract will only result in significant recruitment difficulties and will restrict our ability to provide a safe service for women and their babies.

“Whilst we recognise the need for changes to the organisation and delivery of services to ensure safe, effective and sustainable care at any time of the day or night, the imposition of this new contract means our trainees will continue to feel disheartened and undervalued and there is a real risk that young doctors will be discouraged from entering our specialty or becoming doctors altogether.

“We welcome the review into the long-standing concerns of doctors in training by Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, and will provide full support in outlining the issues for juniors in the context of obstetrics and gynaecology. It will however be crucial that a wide range of junior doctors are engaged in the review from the outset to give it sufficient legitimacy, particularly at a time when tensions among the whole profession are running so high.

“For the sake of our patients and the future careers and family lives of our junior doctors, finding a way to tackle the wider issues, including managing an increasingly complex and challenging workload, working in a safe and supportive environment and improving the morale of an already overstretched group of hardworking doctors, is critical.”

Dr Matthew Prior, Chair of the RCOG’s Trainees Committee, added: 

“We condemn the Secretary Of State’s announcement of contract imposition from August 2016. As a direct result of the government’s handling of this contract negotiation, morale among the trainees we represent is already extremely low and this will only be exacerbated by the contract imposition. While we support delivery of 7 day services, this must be implemented in a way that is safe for patients and fair for all staff working in the NHS.

“We welcome a review of training and morale in medicine but to announce this simultaneously as contract imposition is disingenuous and shows a lack of understanding of the issues at hand. We urge the Secretary of State to rethink the imposition and to engage with 54,000 junior doctors to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Ends 

For media enquiries, contact the RCOG press office on 020 7772 6444/300 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk