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HCSA junior doctors urge action on associates at NHS England meet

HCSA junior doctors’ leaders have met senior NHS England representatives to call for action on growing concerns over medical “associate” professionals. 

The HCSA delegation also challenged “unacceptable” behaviour by some trusts who are trying to bully doctors in training into breaking strike action. 

The delegation, led by junior doctors’ committee representatives Matt Church and Conor Hennessy, pointed to recent reports of an associate performing a C-section and expressed concerns that trusts were deploying physician associates as senior house officers on a wholesale basis. 

They told leaders of NHS Workforce, Training and Education (WT&E) — formerly Health Education England — that the lack of oversight by any single body has created an unacceptable vacuum which is allowing employers free rein to draw up their own rules on deployment of associates. 

Following the meeting, Dr Church said: “While action on pay is the top priority for HCSA’s JDC, there are plenty of other issues which also need addressing.

“HCSA is lobbying hard against the abuse of associate roles by employers. We’re clear that things must change — not just in terms of securing proper training for juniors but also to maintain the confidence and safety of our patients.” 

The JDC reps warned NHS leaders that they must act against employers who have threatened junior doctors who take industrial action after reports of pre-strike guidance from trusts claiming that joining the walkouts may affect training progression. 

NHS WT&E has confirmed that the “vast majority” should be able to navigate training successfully. It has stated it is encouraging deaneries to provide support for any doctor having training issues and instructed them not to take a punitive approach. 

Dr Hennessy said after the meeting: “It’s absolutely unacceptable that some employers are deploying what are in effect bullying tactics against striking junior doctors by warning that their training will be impacted. The guidance from the NHS states clearly that for the vast majority this simply isn’t true and that this behaviour by trusts isn’t acceptable. 

“Instead of threatening junior doctors, employers should be focused on joining unions in demanding the government come forward with an acceptable offer to end this dispute.” 

Addressing other issues raised by junior doctor members, HCSA delegates also pressed for action on the new algorithmic system for allocating foundation places, warning that high numbers had reported ending up with their 16th or 17th preference. 

NHS WT&E leaders agreed to carry out an analysis of the system and committed to review and reform the system if it is not working. 

If you are a junior doctor member and would like support with any of the issues raised above, contact