The junior doctor contract and Our Health Partnership

Although I have been relatively quiet on the blog front in recent months, I find myself wanting to write about how national and regional medical politics and wider social changes affect Our Health Partnership. Does the junior doctor contract imposition affect Our Health Partnership and our outlook on the future?

The arguments around the junior doctor strike are complex. Neither the BMA nor the government appear to have put across their arguments to the wider public in an accurate way and the reporting by the mass media has been variable in its accuracy and quality. As a health professional, and BMA member, my natural inclination is to side with the junior doctors. As someone who believes in the need for adequate investment in health and social care I have difficulty in understanding how paying the same group of doctors the same amount of money but expecting them to work across a broader range of hours can make sense, or be equitable.

Putting aside the arguments of unfairness, the flimsiness of the evidence to support change and the morality of doctors going on strike, there is a broader perspective to be appreciated. I believe that all health professionals working in and for the NHS need to pay careful attention to the tone and actions of the Department of Health. It is clear to me that the imposition of the junior doctor contract betrays the belief of the Department of Health that they have free reign to do whatever they like, when it comes to contracts.

Junior doctors have some leverage in their negotiations due their ability to strike and threaten to strike. General practitioners on the other hand have virtually no leverage at all in their annual negotiations with the government, who simply don’t believe us when we implore them for change to prevent the collapse of general practice. Their experience is of a profession that simply adapts as necessary.

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to surmise that the reclassification of late evenings and Saturday as normal working days for routine healthcare has massive ramifications for the way that general practice operates. With pledges of New Deals and 7-day-a-week GP services it seems inevitable that a future contract will include the need to work longer hours.

As a super-partnership we may not yet have the ability to influence national policy but we will have the adaptability to easily form local networks and co-operatives to meet the demands of providing healthcare for our patients over more of the week. Being a single organisation makes the complexities of data-sharing agreements, perhaps the single biggest difficulty in working collaboratively, much easier. In the meantime we will have to wait and hope that our own negotiators can come up with better deals for us in the long term.

Samir Dawlatly is a GP partner at Jiggins Lane Medical Centre and Board Member of Our Health Partnership. The views expressed here are his own and don’t necessarily represent that of any organisation he works for.