What the new junior doctor contract means for GP trainees

Junior doctors this week backed proposed changes to the contract imposed on them in 2016. BMA trainees GP subcommittee co-chairs Dr Zoe Greaves and Dr Sandesh Gulhane reflect on what the new deal means for general practice.

GP trainees: contract agreed (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)
GP trainees: contract agreed (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)

After three long years, we were delighted this week by the announced acceptance of the amended 2016 terms and conditions of service for junior doctors. Of the improvements made there are several of key importance to GP trainees both in the hospital and practice setting, and which we have pushed for persistently since the imposition three years ago.

We have reinstated within the contract the supernumerary status of GP trainees in practice. This will ensure access to needed leave and recognition of our training status in all practices.

We know that in a small minority of practices training is limited, and trainees are seen as low-cost additional workforce rather than the training professionals and future partners or sessional doctors that they truly are. This will help bring much needed protection in these areas.

Financial penalty

Travel and associated expenses from home to practice will now be available to trainees on any day on which they are required to undertake home visits. This reinstates a lost benefit, and extends it, so that GP trainees who unlike hospital trainees have no option but to use their own vehicle for travel will not be financially disadvantaged.

Where programmes place trainees at practices many miles from their homes this can be a significant issue, and by adding cost it is also hoped that training schemes will give more account of the desire of trainees to work and train closer to home.

We have provided protections to training that will apply not just in practice but in hospital too. Any work that is required for ARCP will now be factored into a trainee’s work schedule and can be exception reported against.

This will mean that like in practice, when in hospital GP trainees will need to be given time for their e-portfolio and other admin work. This will allow hospital placements to maintain a training focus.

Trainee costs

Less than full-time (LTFT) trainees will now receive a pay premium of £1,000 per annum for as long as they continue to train LTFT, in order to try and assist in meeting some of the known additional costs incurred by trainees who do not work full time.

In addition to this we have secured a commitment to review and address the issue of pay parity between GP training and hospital work. We believe that the current GP pay premium falls short of giving parity during the time spent in practice and as such was a key issue for us in negotiations; moving forward we have commitment to gather data on this and address it, so as to ensure that GP training can never be seen as the poor cousin of hospital training.

Further to this there are many changes to working hours and conditions in the hospital setting that will also benefit GP trainees as they undertake the ST1 and ST2 placements in hospital. This includes, among others, things such as enhanced rest after night shifts, and higher rates of weekend pay to deter antisocial rostering, as well as contractualisation of notice periods and improvements in prospective cover.

In all we believe that these contract changes will significantly and substantively improve both pay, training and work-life balance, making training to be a GP a more attractive option for junior doctors, and helping to address some of the shortfall in recruitment.

We are delighted that the membership agreed with us in this and voted overwhelmingly in support, with 82% voting to accept these changes.

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