It has been just over a month since our last joint blog and sadly, as chairs of SSASC and SCC, it has been an incredibly frustrating few weeks for us both.
Since the end of April, we have been expecting a decision on our proposal to Scottish Government on pay arrangements for those doctors who significantly changed their working patterns, in particular to working nightshifts, in response to the extensive extra work caused by COVID.
Far from patiently waiting, we have been constantly chasing this up, being promised a decision is coming etc. for almost four months.
We felt that our proposals represented fair recognition for those doctors working at the very sharpest end of the COVID-19 effort, working exhausting hours in full PPE to ensure our patients received the best care possible in their time of need. As time went on, it became increasingly apparent that the Scottish Government did not see the same value in rewarding this group of doctors who stepped up when it mattered. And so it did not really come as a big surprise when we finally received confirmation in writing at the end of last week that there would not be a national agreement on these pay arrangements. We can safely say the general feeling amongst the BMA elected members and staff who had been working on this for months was ‘scunnered’ – to have wasted so much time on this and got nowhere. It certainly feels like we have been disrespected, leaving the additional work by many consultants and SAS doctors working at the COVID frontline unacknowledged. We can assure you that these sentiments have been well expressed to the Cabinet Secretary for Health.
However, as part of the belated “no”, there was acknowledgement that there should be arrangements to allow for local resolution on this issue. The frustration is clearly that these local discussions were put on hold for so many weeks with the expectation that there would be national agreement, so we are very much back to square one after so many, many weeks. We entirely appreciate that some boards might be easier to negotiate with than others on this issue – that’s one of the reasons we wanted to get national agreement in the first place. This now puts pressure on LNCs to have effective negotiations with individual boards which, several weeks on from the peak, won’t necessarily seem a priority for boards. Nevertheless, it remains important to resolve this to ensure appropriate reward for the work already done and importantly to make a plan acceptable to all sides for the eventuality that there will be further waves of COVID in the coming months. We have shared our national proposals with LNCs across Scotland and we know that there are already local agreements on pay for nightshifts in some specialties (such as emergency medicine) so there is already precedent for this. We hope for timely resolution.
As a result of this, we have now updated the FAQs for Consultant and SAS doctors in Scotland.
Graeme Eunson, chair SCC and Bernie Scott, chair SSASC
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