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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 July 7; 335(7609): 15.
Published online 2007 June 29. doi:  10.1136/bmj.39262.441609.DB
PMCID: PMC1910688

Staff and associate specialist doctors demand new contract

Doctors at the BMA's annual representatives' meeting gave overwhelming support to the bid of their colleagues at staff and associate specialist (SAS) grade to secure a new contract.

The BMA has given the Treasury until 27 July to ratify the contract, which was submitted by the BMA and NHS Employers to ministers for approval at the end of November last year. Only after the new contract has been signed off can SAS doctors be balloted on whether to accept it. If the BMA does not hear by the deadline it will convene “an extraordinary meeting” to discuss options on how to proceed.

Staff and associate specialist doctors, who make up 12 500 of the doctors working in the NHS, are the only group of healthcare workers that have not had the opportunity to vote on a new contract on pay, working conditions, and career progression. Negotiators have been told by the government that funding for the new contract would be available from April 2006.

Early next week (3 July) doctors will deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street with more than 4000 signatures from doctors demanding the immediate and full approval of the contract.

Mohib Khan, chairman of the SAS doctors' committee, said that the group he represents remains an “anonymous and invisible force” even though they carry out one in 10 NHS operations and spend 90-100% of their time in direct clinical care with patients.

Ashok Jadeja from London, who proposed the motion lobbying for support from the meeting, described SAS doctors as the “engine room” of the NHS who have been the “scapegoat for the financial mismanagement” of the health service. The motion, deploring the delays in introducing the new contract and demanding that the new deal be backdated to April 2006, was backed overwhelmingly by the meeting.

“We are the force that helps to break the back of waiting lists and achieves the targets set for the NHS by the government,” Mr Khan said, but he and his colleagues have become “angry, frustrated and demoralised.”

“While the government refuses to deliver the promised reforms to our career progression, professional development and training, we find ourselves in the situation where 66% of junior doctor MTAS [Medical Training Application Service] applicants would rather leave the country or the profession altogether than end up in our grade,” Mr Khan told representatives in Torquay.

Sam Everington, acting chairman of the BMA, said, “The modernisation of the NHS began with the wholesale revision of healthcare workers' pay and conditions. If Gordon Brown wants a modern NHS fit for purpose in the 21st century, and the improvements to patient care that entails, then he must provide the funding to finish the job. To single out one group of healthcare workers and delay their new contract is grossly unfair.”

Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group