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Representatives overwhelmingly rejected a demand from the Birmingham division for the resignation of the chair and deputy chairs of the Junior Doctors Committee during a highly charged debate on Tuesday about modernising medical careers.
They also gave a standing ovation to committee chair Jo Hilborne, who told members that the blame for the “nightmare of MTAS” did not lie with the JDC, which had warned of the dangers since 2004 and had worked strenuously in recent months to avert it. “The fault is with the medical royal colleges, the postgraduate deans, and the government,” she said.
But council member Fay Wilson, proposing the emergency resolution, said the officers should resign because they had failed to honour a commitment, given to the junior doctors' conference earlier this year, not to oppose the legal action taken by Remedy UK against the health department.
Dr Wilson, claiming to speak for many of the junior doctors who were not in the hall as well as the 40% who were not BMA members, said Remedy—a pressure group representing junior doctors—had been forced to seek a judicial review because it felt the BMA did not have the will.
She produced a transcript of part of the proceedings of the junior doctors' conference, which, she alleged, demonstrated that JDC officers originally agreed they would not oppose the legal action.
The junior doctors represented by Remedy felt their own union had betrayed them, she said. “They felt stabbed in the back.”
She called on members to set aside personalities and consider the interests of the association. “JDC officers were on watch when this happened. They are accountable officers.”
But JDC member Andrew Rowland dismissed the accusations as a “fairy story of emotions based on fiction not fact. None of the officers said what is alleged in this motion.” This was “nothing more than a witch-hunt,” he added.
Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's General Practitioners Committee, said the association had to hold up its hands and say it could have done more to support junior doctors. But he insisted that Jo Hilborne and her colleagues had worked tirelessly to try to “resolve the MTAS shambles rather than just walking away from it.”
“Instead of trying to find scapegoats, let's try to resolve the issue and not fight among ourselves,” he urged.
Acting chair of council Sam Everington said the JDC had been the first to warn of the “catastrophe that was coming our way. What's absolutely vital is that we unite as a profession. The government are very happy to see us divided, to see a wedge between us.”