This is a news story that has been rumbling on for a few weeks and has recently been picked up by the national media.
Here's a reasonable summary of what's going on:http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comme ... 54811.html
In a nutshell, the government started to review junior doctors' contracts a few years ago. NB a 'junior doctor' is any grade below consultant, up to and including the most senior of registrars, who may be well into their 30s or even 40s. The negotiations with the BMA broke down, and the BMA withdrew from negotiations. Now, the government is saying that it will impose the new contracts on junior doctors without any further negotiation.
The main issue boils down to antisocial hours. At the moment, 'normal hours' are 7am-7pm Monday to Friday. Doctors who work outside those hours get a banding supplement to their pay. Starting salary is around £22,000 (gross) but with 1A banding it can go up to as much as £33,000. For 1A banding, there needs to be quite a lot of evening, weekend and night work. An A&E job is typically 1A banding.
The new proposals would raise basic salary slightly, and re-define 'normal hours' to 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday. This would mean that doctors who work 9am-5pm Monday to Friday only (that's basically dermatologists and that's about it) would be slightly better off. However, those who do lots of out-of-hours work, such as A&E doctors, surgeons, acute medics and anaesthetists, would lose a lot of money. Some have estimated that it could be as much as a 40% pay cut.
Now some might argue that hospitals should be 24 hour services, and to a certain extent that's true, although clearly 'routine' stuff should be during normal working hours. No one wants to turn up to their routine colonoscopy at 3am on a Bank Holiday. So you could just about argue that doctors shouldn't get extra cash for working nights and weekends; although I think A&E doctors would argue that their lifestyles are significantly poorer than the likes of ophthalmologists! However, these new contracts amount to a huge pay cut, and surely that's not fair.
Furthermore, the new contracts remove some of the safeguards against dangerously long shifts or periods without days off, which has been shown numerous times to be dangerous to patients.
Lots of doctors have said that they might move abroad. It's true, medicine is an internationally transferrable qualification and there are plenty of jobs in other countries that pay more money and offer a better lifestyle. The Tories have responded to this suggestion by saying that UK trained doctors should be forced to work in the NHS for a pre-defined period of time before they can leave the country, although it is unclear how this could be enforced. They also haven't given any indication as to how they will recompense the countries who trained the thousands of doctors who trained overseas.
The BMA is now balloting its members to consider a strike. If they vote yes, it would be the first full doctors strike since 1975. Contrary to Freddie's lyrics in Friends Will Be Friends, doctors don't go on strike. If it happens, it will be a big deal. Doctors don't want to strike, but they also don't want to have their pay slashed and in a way that compromises patient safety.