Junior Doctor Contract Referendum: Members Vote NO and JDC Chair Resigns

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The result of the junior doctor contract referendum was revealed today, with 58% of the voters deciding to reject the terms proposed by the government. Following the results, chair of the Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) for the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Johann Malawana, announced he would be resigning from his position as chair with immediate effect.

The long-running dispute culminated in junior doctors having their say on the terms and conditions of the new contract offered by the government. Sixty-eight per cent of junior doctors and medical students in their penultimate and final years voted, meaning around 37,000 members of BMA took part in the ballot.

Following the announcement of the result to reject the contract, Dr Malawana released a statement declaring that he would be stepping down as JDC chair. Having lead the campaign that lead to a 76% turnout for industrial action, which included the first two all-out strikes in NHS history, Dr Malawana stated that he was hopeful the proposed contract would be acceptable to the junior doctor members of the BMA. However, owing to the result, he stated that it would be ‘dishonourable and untenable’ that he continue in his position.

Dr Malawana believed that the fundamental breakdown in trust caused by the government over the last five years has resulted in a situation where no solution is possible, particularly with a government so keen to declare victory over frontline staff in the NHS. He further states in his message that he hopes the government will stop and listen to the result and realise how much damage has been done.

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt has said that the outcome of the referendum was ‘extremely disappointing’ considering the BMA’s endorsement of the contract. He did not state what he would do next, however sources have suggested that junior doctors would be moved onto the new contract from this August despite their vote to reject it.

The worry is that by imposing the terms and conditions, it will only lead to increasing staff shortages and exacerbating the existing problems within NHS staffing. With a voting result that is somewhat divided, the question is whether further industrial action will be as effective as previously seen.

The prime minister, David Cameron, has also expressed his disappoint with the outcome and added that the government is ‘considering their options’. For the BMA, the next steps will be in the hands of the remaining members of the JDC.

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