An unprecedented agreement to extend flexible-working arrangements to junior doctors has been reached, following negotiations between the BMA and NHS.
Trainees in England will no longer need to meet specific criteria such as caring responsibilities, health reasons or religious grounds to qualify for the right to work LTFT (less-than full time), following the success of a three-year pilot scheme.
The agreement reached between the BMA, HEE (Health Education England) and NHS Employers as part of the Enhancing Junior Doctors Working Lives group, will ultimately see a third category of LTFT working introduced to all specialties.
Under the terms of the existing pilot scheme junior doctors working in England in specialities such as emergency medicine, obs and gynae and paediatrics are able to work at 50%, 60% or 80% of a full time post.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Sarah Hallett welcomed the agreement, saying reform of LTFT working arrangements had been long overdue and the new, third category would grant junior doctors the flexibility they desired in their careers.
She said: ‘JDC is delighted access to LTFT will finally become available to all specialties in the next two years, after close working between the committee and HEE.
‘Increasing access to flexible training has been a key priority; junior doctors told us they felt having to give a reason to work LTFT was outdated and restrictive.
‘We know there is still more to do to improve flexibility in training, but this is a much-needed and long-awaited win, that we hope will make a real difference to the working lives of junior doctors across England. The BMA will continue to press for this to apply to junior doctors across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.’
A report into the second year of the emergency medicine LTFT pilot published by HEE in March last, showed that the greater flexibility of category three made a real difference to emergency medicine trainees. Ninety-six per cent said that they were either more likely or much more likely to remain in emergency medicine, with 92 per cent stating that category three made them more likely or much more likely to remain working in the NHS.
Previously, access to LTFT working fell under two categories. The first related to junior doctors, with a disability or continuing ill health or to those with carer responsibilities either to children or an ill or disabled partner or relative.
Under the second category, trainees could also be entitled to LTFT in the event that they wanted to take up a unique personal opportunity such as training for an international sporting event, or if they had a religious commitment or were looking to undertake non-medical professional development.
Following a 2017 pilot scheme among emergency medicine trainees, juniors were able to access a third category allowing for LTFT working on the basis of personal choice relating to an individual's lifestyle needs.
The success of the pilot saw it extended by 12 months on two occasions, with the most recent extension running until August this year.
It is understood that category three will be introduced incrementally across all specialties and will be extended to all junior doctors in England by the end of 2022.
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