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Health secretary ‘committed’ to contract negotiations

Matt Hancock writes to BMA chair over pay deal

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The health secretary has set out his “commitment” to working with the British Medical Association (BMA) on upcoming contract negotiations, in a letter to the BMA chair.

In a letter sent to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock says he wants to work closely with the BMA to agree a deal that pays fairly, improves morale and values doctors — and, in doing so, meets the shared aim of improving patient care.

Mr Hancock, in the letter, dated September 18 2018, but made public today, says he wishes to address concerns raised by Dr Nagpaul.

“I absolutely recognise the frustration and disappointment many doctors are expressing in relation to this year’s pay award and the way in which it is phased. I have heard that very clearly and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly,” states Mr Hancock.

He continues: “In a tight financial year for our health service, the priority had to be ensuring that we could afford the staff we need to provide the care we need to provide to patients, but I would be deeply concerned if doctors took this as a signal that we do not value the extraordinary dedication and expertise which they continue to show day in day out. We do not and cannot take that commitment for granted and in future, as in any other year, we will endeavour [sic] to ensure that is reflected in our discussions and our decisions.”

Mr Hancock notes that some BMA members have expressed concerns about the DDRB process, and says he has asked his officials to meet with the BMA to “understand these concerns in greater detail and to report back to me”.

In the letter, the secretary for state says he wants to see agreements reached for employed doctors and GPs, and says he is committed to working with the BMA on contract negotiations for consultants, GPs, junior doctors, and speciality and associate specialists.

“For consultants, I am keen for the Department and employers to get around the table with you as soon as possible to discuss, debate and agree a long-term pay deal including contract reform.”

For junior doctors he states: “I am making available to trusts £10m to be spent by the Guardian of Safe Working in each trust in agreement with junior doctors locally to improve working conditions for junior doctors.”

He notes the DDRB made clear that SAS doctors have been a neglected group and so received a higher pay rise at 3% this year than other hospital doctors.

“Building on this, I want to see the valuable role they do recognised in their contract arrangements and the development and support they receive.”

The final section of the letter focuses on general practice.

Mr Hancock states: “The DDRB also recognised the challenges faced by General Practice in their recommendations. As you know, I have asked NHS England to look to agree a multi-year contract settlement with the General Practitioners Committee and have announced that, if agreement is reached, GPs will receive an additional 1% in the baseline for 2019/20 on top of the funding agreed in the contract negotiation. I am committed to seeing investment in primary care. I know negotiations with NHS England are underway and I want to hear from NHS England their views on the level of investment and what will be achieved for it.”

Commenting to OnMedica, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “We welcome the secretary of state’s commitment to general practice, reaffirming the earlier pledge of consolidating this year's practice funding uplift to 3% from April 2019 depending on a contract agreement this year, and his encouragement for NHS England to ensure increased investment as part of the Long-Term Plan. Despite pressures, family doctors continue to provide a highly valued service for people in their local communities, however only a proper, long-term funding plan to enable an expansion of the workforce for general practice can guarantee greater continuity of care to patients, and would be able to help deliver a more sustainable future for the NHS as a whole.”

Image credit: UK Parliament, CC BY 3.0

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