There has been considerable coverage of the junior doctor contract lately. There are a few elements of the debate which have struck me in relation to the potential impact on nursing.
I have learned that junior doctors are not just those who are in their two foundation years after qualifying from their degree. The term and the contract applies to all doctors up to the level of qualified GP or consultant specialist. So, this includes all GP trainees, as well as registrars and senior registrars in all specialisms. This makes the term ‘junior doctor’ seem rather a misnomer.
This situation has made me consider that in nursing there is no longer a common use of the term ‘junior staff nurse’ but if there was, for how many years would this apply – and might it be a useful distinction for patients?
If agreed, the new contract being proposed by the Department of Health will change the way in which unsocial hours are calculated. Saturday for example, becomes a ‘plain day’ – just the same as Monday to Friday. This may have a potential impact on nurses and our allied health professional colleagues. If one part of the team caring for patients, families and carers has their pay calculated on a differently calibrated week, how long might it be before Saturday becomes a ‘plain day’ for nurses too?
Lastly, the proposed new junior doctor contract includes a move towards fewer hours being worked by junior doctors. Logically, this would lead to some current medical responsibilities being picked up by nurses and others in the team. I am interested to know how the impact of the proposed contract changes has been considered from the nursing profession’s point of view, in terms of capacity and capability.
My son is a mature fourth year medical student and sadly he and his fellow students have begun to speak about moving away from the UK after qualifying. He does not want to leave the NHS – he and his colleagues are truly committed professionals – but he needs to have sufficient income to be able to live independently and the proposed changes to the contract mean that he will continue to need parental support for many years to come.
Crystal Oldman, chief executive, Queen’s Nursing Institute