Junior doctors look forward to dialogue with Hamilton on contract

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I am writing to correct a number of points in the Morning View column on February 12.

Junior House Officer posts stopped in 2005, with Senior House Officer posts stopping several years later.

Since then, after finishing university, doctors will work as a Foundation Year 1, then Year 2 to develop basic competencies, and then would be expected to start Core or Specialty training, depending on which branch of medicine they wish to train in.

These programmes range from three to eight years for a standard path through training, but may be extended for a variety of reasons, such as pursuing research.

The papers cited by Mr Hunt regarding weekend mortality rates are misquoted in this article.

Those admitted to hospital on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday had a higher risk of dying within 30 days of admission, even if they had been discharged from hospital by this point.

There are several reasons thought to contribute to this, but Sir Bruce Keogh, co-author of one of the papers, himself stated that it was impossible to say that the increased risk was preventable.

You article has also misunderstood what the new contract is proposing about weekend working. Whilst it does allow a higher rate of pay for those working one in four Saturdays or more, it also allows junior doctors to work one in two weekends, not one in five as was reported.

The BMA believe that patients should have access to safe and effective care seven days a week. For this to happen, it needs to involve everyone who works in healthcare, not just junior doctors.

However it would appear that no additional funding will be sought to make this happen, rather the current workforce will be stretched even more thinly.

Minister Hamilton has said that an imposed contract would be the worst possible outcome for junior doctors in Northern Ireland and we agree with him.

Any change to contracts should be on a collaborative basis between government and doctors and an imposition is not in the best interests of patients.

We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Minister Hamilton to achieve a contract that works best for Northern Ireland.

Dr Conan Castles, Chair NI Junior Doctor’s Committee of the BMA