So, having not been able to attend any of the previous BMA meetings I have had 2 in a week. MSWG took place on Monday. This is the medical subspecialties working group and brings together representatives of the various trainee organisations. The forum is designed to allow us to raise concerns and give input into the BMA JDC. Normally this meeting would be chaired by the JDC educational deputy chair but with everything going on we were blessed with the presence of Dr Ellen McCourt. Unsurprisingly the meeting centred around discussion of the new junior doctors contract and the proposed industrial action. Ellen was keen to hear from the various organisations present about what their trainees felt regarding the IA and what sort of numbers we were expecting to go on strike. The vast majority felt that their members had lost enthusiasm for IA in the wake of the BMA referendum and the lack of subsequent communication from the JDC. Both myself and the representative from ASiT expressed our concerns at the effect the new contract may have on ‘craft’ specialties. However, having spoken to the committee and BOTA members at the BOA last week I was forced to agree with the other representatives that our membership did not have the hunger for a 5 day strike. Ellen seemed unsurprised to hear this but was thankful for our comments.
After this discussion I raised the results of the recent BOTA census focusing on the statistics around bullying and harassment. Embarrassingly, for us as a specialty, none of the other representatives were particularly surprised by the numbers. However, a number of them did comment that they did not think it was isolated to orthopaedics and we had a lively discussion about bullying in the workplace. I am hopeful that with some persistence over the next few months we may be able to get the BMA to join with the BOA in their recent commitment to helping tackle this issue.
Saturday September 24th, the day of the JDC committee meeting. The vast majority of you will already know the main outcome from this meeting and will no doubt have an opinion. Let me add a little context. Unsurprisingly the committee meeting was well attended with the majority of the 13 national regions represented by 3 or more members. Unusually, approximately 50% of these committee members are new representing the recent upsurge in BMA membership and activity.
Following the tedium of committee procedures (approving minutes took 45 minutes) we moved on to the elections for committee positions. Dr Ellen McCourt was running against Dr Nadia Masood and Dr Ben White. The election process is very simple with each candidate being given 4 minutes to speak and then 6 minutes of questions. Ellen went first and spoke very frankly about ‘that radio 4 interview’ and the need to improve the BMAs communication with its membership. She went on to talk about what she hopes to achieve as JDC chair and how she already knows the intricacies of the new contract and state of negotiations. She was largely questioned about her media strategy and gave very sensible answers. Nadia and Ben then took the stage. For those that aren’t aware, these are two of the doctors involved in the Justice For Health campaign that has been so successful in raising funds to fight a legal battle against the new contract. They have led an excellent media campaign and spoke heavily about this. Unfortunately, it became very apparent that they do not have the experience within the BMA or in the DOH meetings that this position requires. Their answers to questions felt superficial and lacked the grounding of Ellen’s. The vote fell in favour of Ellen who received a standing ovation from the committee members.
The deputy chair elections provided quite a bit of entertainment and concern from a neutral observers point of view. When a candidate openly admitted to finding out who liked whom and what she needed to say to specific people to secure her nomination the committee could not believe what they were hearing. It was hugely disappointing to find that people feel these machinations are necessary and worrying that in a group of people all aimed at the same thing that they are possible. Thankfully the position went to someone else. I would like to say congratulations to Dr Pete Campbell (deputy chair professional issues), Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya (deputy chair training and education) and Dr Will Sapwell (deputy chair terms, conditions and negotiating) on their election.
Following the election of the committee the decision was made to make the session ‘in camera’. As an invited observer this meant I was kicked out and had to receive the news about IA like everyone else through social media and the internet. Like many of you, i was disappointed in how the news was released and think it highlights the work the JDC have to do on their media strategy. Like many of you i have looked at the Junior Doctor Contract Forum on Facebook and witnessed the impassioned posts that many feel the need to make. I encourage our membership to hold faith with the BMA. The members of the JDC were all switched on and seemed dedicated to working in the best interests of their members. Whilst many think the decision to completely cancel the IA is a political blunder I think the decision was made with good intent and I am reassured that the committee will continue to work for its members going forward.