Junior Doctors’ Contract Negotiations Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): April 2016


Further Industrial Action (IA) is to take place later this month in the on-going dispute between junior doctors (the BMA) and the Government.  This IA is different as it has been up-scaled to a full walk out between 8am and 5pm on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th April.  We discussed the ongoing junior doctors’ contract dispute at our recent GAT Committee meeting in March and, based on our discussion and a recent update from the BMA, we have put together these FAQs to inform our trainee members.  A parliamentary briefing about the junior doctors’ contract published on 1 April 2016 gives a commentary of the process so far.

What is the goal with the planned repeated days of IA?
The BMA is clear in its goal; to return to meaningful negotiations and drop the imposition of the contract.  A return to negotiations has been called for by many other medical organisations, including the AAGBI.  The chair of the BMA JDC has written to the Secretary of State to ask him to lift the threat of imposition so the IA can be called off.  You can find his letter here.

Is IA working?
There have been six days of industrial action to date, with tens of thousands of junior doctors taking part.  The first two of these days resulted in a return to negotiations where progress was made from the starting point of the DDRB recommendations from July 2015. These areas include:

  • Front loading of pay progression
  • Financial penalties against trusts that breach hours safe working limits
  • Pay for all work done
  • Improved robustness of the guardian role

This progression is in part a result of pressure that industrial action has applied on the government, but also from events such as #meetthedoctors, letters written to MPs and social media campaigns. However, an imposed contract that is unacceptable remains, which is why continued industrial action is scheduled.

I’m worried I can’t afford to keep taking IA, what should I do?

  • Check your payslips closely and contact the BMA if you are concerned your pay has been reduced incorrectly.
  • Provide locum cover on an alternative day to offset the costs.
  • The BMA Charities Trust Fund is for doctors (and medical students) in financial difficulty.  You can find more information here
  • Request for your Trust to monitor your hours, in particular your natural breaks.

Outside of any financial worries associated with the contract dispute, it is understandable that trainees may have higher levels of stress and anxiety. If so, please look at the BMA web pages, and the Joint Welfare statement for further help and advice.

I'm worried I'm not going to get signed off for parts of my training if I keep taking IA. What are the rules about this?
According to the Gold Guide, the reference guide to post graduate training in the UK, if the sum of absences exceeds fourteen days in any twelve-month period, then a review of training should be undertaken and the expected end of training date adjusted if required.  Days of work missed due to IA are included in this total.  If you are concerned about this, then talk to your Educational Supervisor or College Tutor to discuss ways to mitigate the effect of this.  In the meantime, it would be prudent to keep your work place based assessments up to date and in order.

I've experienced negative comments as the result of my decision to take or not to take IA, what should I do?
The decision whether or not to take IA is a very personal one.  Just as the decision to take IA is not made lightly; the decision to abstain from industrial action that colleagues are taking is also a difficult one.  We appreciate that this is an issue that evokes strong feelings and opinions and we believe is it vitally important that we remain respectful and considerate of each other’s views.
If you face negative comments from colleagues, then please discuss this with your Educational Supervisor or College Tutor in the first instance. 

For trainees struggling with the current situation, the BMA provide a confidential counselling service, “Doctors for doctors” and there is also the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund’s “Support 4 Doctors” service. 

What can I do to ensure that there is effective cover during the full walk out?  
The BMA has given the required notice of the planned full walk out to NHS Trusts.  It is the responsibility of Trusts to ensure that adequate cover is in place. If anyone has any concerns then these can be raised with BMA Local Negotiating Committees who can liaise with Trust management. 

Apart from IA, how can we help the BMA campaign?

  • Encourage consultants and SAS doctors who are covering for junior doctors during IA to tweet using the #emergencycover hashtag, ideally with a photo or video.  This will help the public to understand that cover will be in place on the days of the full walk out.
  • Contact your MP (again) and ask family and friends to do the same.  Explain that the BMA is willing to negotiate.
  • Write letters to newspapers to explain the issue.
  • You may wish to organise local community events on days of IA such as CPR demonstrations.
  • From 13th April onwards there will be a permanent peaceful protest outside the Department of Health from 0900-2100 each day (the first day is 24h).  Details are on the junior doctors’ contract page on Facebook. 
  • Continue to explain the importance of the issue to colleagues, family and friends.  There is concern that a change in the junior doctor contract will be followed by changes to the consultant contract (currently being negotiated) and for Agenda for Change staff. 


I live in the devolved nations - how can I support my colleagues in England?
Junior doctors in devolved nations can write to their own Members of Parliament asking them to call for the Government to return to negotiations with the BMA.  Although the devolved nations are not currently included in the contract negotiations, the MPs for Scotland and Wales are active in debating the issue.  Dr Philippa Whitford is a Scottish MP and has so far provided one of the most reasoned views in the House of Commons with her ‘shop floor’ experience. In addition, the BMA have distributed badges and lanyards to members to show their support. Many have taken to social media to share their views using the hashtag #juniorcontract.

More information about the dispute, taking IA and the details of the contract can also be found on the BMA website. 

Here is a list of links to direct you: 

If there is anything you think we can do to help please get in touch:  gat@aagbi.org
The GAT Committee
April 2016