Health chiefs hail 'excellent progress' on working conditions for Northumberland's junior doctors

The NHS trust running Northumberland and North Tyneside’s hospitals is ‘making excellent progress’ on new working conditions for junior doctors.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 12:52 pm
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Cramlington.

A report to the latest board meeting of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, by the guardian of safe working Mike Vincent, said following renegotiation of elements of the 2016 Junior Doctors Contract by the BMA (British Medical Association), several improvements to pay and conditions began August this year.

These include a series of changes to the rest entitlements of junior doctors, such as 46 hours of rest required after any number of rostered nights (previously after third or fourth night shift), a maximum of seven shifts of any length on seven consecutive days (previously eight) and no more than four long shifts on consecutive days (previously five).

In addition, no junior doctor will be rostered for work at the weekend at a frequency of more than one week in three (previously one in two) and they must receive three 30-minute breaks during a 12-hour night shift (previously two).

Mr Vincent’s report stated: ‘The changes to the rest and safety entitlements will impact significantly in Northumbria and have resulted in 26 of 31 rotas becoming non-compliant.’

As of this month, that dropped to just nine rotas being non-compliant, on the basis of weekend frequency and all at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington – five in the emergency department (ED), two in medicine and two in surgery.

By February, this will have dropped to just the five ED rotas at NSECH and the trust is on track to achieve full compliance by August 2020, meeting the recommended schedule.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, the trust’s executive medical director, said: “A significant amount of work has taken place to address the issues that have arisen due to the revisions in junior doctors’ contracts.

“As a trust, we have acted promptly to deal with these directly and have involved our junior doctors in making changes to working patterns to ensure we meet the new rest and safety entitlements.

“We continue to make excellent progress in this area and remain on track for our rotas to be fully compliant by next August, which is in line with the recommended implementation schedule.”