As the British Medical Association and representatives of junior doctors reach an agreement over contractual terms, early evidence suggests that junior doctors themselves are split over the new deal.
Both the Health Secretary and the British Medical Association welcomed the compromise, thrashed out over the last 10 days in talks overseen by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
The BMA believes that significant improvements have been made, while the government was delighted to avoid further damaging negotiations.
Under the deal, Saturdays and Sundays will attract premium pay if doctors work seven or more weekends in a year.
However, early reports suggest that the British Medical Association could face a strong backlash from junior doctors over what they consider to be less than satisfactory conditions.
While it is unsurprising that the BMA has ultimately come to this decision, it was never one likely to find favour with all physicians working in the health service.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Manish Verma, an NHS doctor, was extremely sceptical about the deal brokered by the British Medical Association, indicating that he did barely represented any progress whatsoever.
“It doesn’t seem like an improved deal. It’s the BMA’s turn for propaganda to try and sell this as a good deal. Looking at the Acas document there seems to have been lots of areas where we have conceded. It’s unclear where we have gained anything.”
Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, had strongly promoted the agreement when talks were completed, suggesting that the process had been constructive and ultimately represented a good contractual provision for junior doctors.
“Following intense but constructive talks, we are pleased to have reached agreement. Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service. I believe that what has been agreed today delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high-quality care for patients. This represents the best and final way of resolving the dispute and this is what I will be saying to junior doctors in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the new contract.”
However, already a Facebook page on which the message has been posted has received some vitriolic responses to what many junior doctors consider to be a spurious position occupied by the British Medical Association.
Such was the ferocity of the response to the deal, Malawana already posted a response on at the Facebook page of junior doctors, suggesting that the deal should always be given a chance before being dismissed.
“I truly understand that people are scared and worried. I know there is fear and a hell of a lot of anger. I know that the government’s reaction to the contract this evening has not been helpful. Government needs political victories. However, wait for the contract details.”
Jeremy Hunt also commented on the deal, suggesting that he was satisfied with the process, and indicating that the new contract represents progress for both junior doctors and the government.
“The talks have been constructive and positive and highlighted many areas outside the contract where further work is necessary to value the vital role of junior doctors and improve the training and support they are given. This deal represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors and for the NHS as a whole.”
However, while there has been a strong initial response to the contract, some doctors believe that BMA members will ultimately respond affirmatively when voting on the prospect having been worn down by a lengthy period of industrial action.