Last Friday I was asked to appear as a guest expert on the UK breakfast TV show ‘Good Morning Britain’ to comment on ‘The Junior Doctors Dispute’*.
I am neither political, an employment lawyer, nor an employee relations negotiator. However, I am able to comment on the wider implications of this decision, the key points of which are as follows:
- Following the MacLeod report, the UK government gave its full backing to an Employee Engagement Taskforce with a view to delivering sustainable growth across the UK. Surely imposing a contract such as this is doing the exact opposite of promoting employee engagement as a route to economic success?
- Poor morale within the NHS is likely to lead to a raft of issues in the longer term including, demotivation, conflict, increased errors and so on which could well lead to poorer patient care and a possible exodus of UK medics.
- If the NHS, albeit unique, as the largest UK employer, sets about imposing employment contracts, what will the knock on effect be on other employers (and employees) – shouldn’t the government be setting an example? Legalities aside, is this approach morally correct in 2016?
You could argue here that the government has to show some leadership and get the job done. However common sense dictates that they should consider all factors, in particular, I’d like to see them examining NHS statistics on morale / employee engagement and factoring those into the debate – I believe the findings may well sway current thinking and enable a compromise to be found…
*The Junior Doctors Dispute in a nutshell:
In short, junior doctors (a, perhaps misleading, term which covers medics who have just graduated from medical school through to those who have more than a decade of experience on the front line) are objecting to the prospect of a new contract in England.
The government drew up plans to change the contract in 2012, which will allow full 24/7 medical provision without adding resource. However talks broke down in 2014. Despite ACAS becoming involved last year, agreement could not be reached and so the government has now said it will impose the new contract in England. The British Medical Association (BMA) responded by initiating the industrial action process even though the imposition is said to be a ‘done deal’.