August changeover: less than three weeks to go

Thank you to all of you who have so far completed our rota form to tell us what’s happening with your rota. If you haven’t yet you can still fill the form in.

Anyone who STILL doesn’t have their rota, with less than three weeks to go until August changeover should contact our advisors ASAP for support by calling 0300 123 1233 or emailing support@bma.org.uk.

We’ve had over 200 responses over the course of the last week, with 78% telling us that they’ve not had their rota yet. More than a quarter of you said you’d had no contact from your medical staffing team, and more than half of you had had to initiate that contact yourselves. This is clearly not acceptable. Changeover is a stressful enough time without having to chase your rota or anxiously await it. Not knowing what shift patterns you’re working in just a few weeks’ time means you’re often in limbo on making any plans beyond August changeover.

Here at BMA Scotland our team has been busy chasing rotas with health boards and local medical staffing teams – seeking explanations and updates on why these rotas are late and demanding urgent action to get rotas out asap, whilst also supporting individuals where we can, and you’ve asked us to.

We’ve also taken this information to employers centrally and highlighted this to NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Scottish government. We’ve been having ongoing discussions with them all about this fundamental issue for the last few months – with some collaborative work going on to look at highlighting the issues and how we can improve the processes involved to ensure you get your rota on time EVERY time. It is a longstanding issue, and complex, but that doesn’t mean we’re letting them off lightly. We know how important this is, and we’ll keep pushing for this to be fixed. We need to get all rotas out six weeks in advance for junior doctors to be in line with the Scottish code of practice, but crucially to allow us as junior doctors the very basic ability to make plans outside of work. Wellbeing has been an especially hot topic of late across the NHS – a buzzword we hear all too often associated with seemingly random and rarely helpful initiatives. But wellbeing is vitally important, and actually the most fundamental wellbeing issue facing many junior doctors right now is not knowing when are you on nights, which weekends you are off and when can you take leave – whether that be to work out if you can RSVP to your best pal’s wedding, attend your graduation, planning childcare and/or other caring responsibilities you might have or trying to sort your study leave for a long awaited course or specialty exam. We’ve been told that the majority of rotas should have been ready in time, but this isn’t what we’re seeing. We’re picking the details apart and getting to the bottom of it, and we will make this better.

Of course, rotas aren’t the only issue right now. Pressures across the NHS are high – as they have been for so long, and we’re in the midst of another wave of covid infections and all that brings with it. Scottish government have been celebrating the high fill rates in this year’s specialty training recruitment, yet the vast majority of our rotas are being crippled by rota gaps – both short and long term – and we’ve heard from you about the detrimental knock-on effect this has. We know training opportunities are being affected, and that getting breaks is another recurrent issue and of course everyone’s favourite – monitoring. I cannot stress enough how important it is to both take part in monitoring and take advice from us when any process just doesn’t feel right.  

To help you understand more of the issues and to cope with all these different issues, why not come along to one of our Q&A sessions to hear a bit about what we’re doing, tell us what issues are affecting you, and ask any questions you may have and enjoy some free pizza! (There will also be some virtual events, but sadly without pizza)

If you can’t make it, you can always drop me a line if you have anything you want to ask/let us know – chair-sjdc@bma.org.uk. SJDC is your committee, so we want to hear from you on the issues you’re facing. I say it repeatedly, but if we don’t know we can’t fix it! My last blog goes through some top tips to think about around changeover – from checking contracts to pay, leave and public holidays and a few things in between so be sure to check it out and get in touch with our employment advisers if any issues arise.

And finally, changeover also means election time for your BMA Scottish junior doctor committee structures, so watch this space – and your inboxes as nomination and election windows open in coming weeks. There’s a lot more to fix, we need keen and enthusiastic individuals to get involved and help us – the more we all work together the more impact we can have – whether that be locally, regionally or Scotland wide. Too often as junior doctors we’ve been left out of conversations and planning within the NHS and beyond – come and help us amplify our collective voice now and in the future.

Dr Lailah Peel, chair, SJDC

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