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Hunt urges BMA to return to negotiations on new contract

DH promises junior doctor pay will not be cut by 30%

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 09 October 2015

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to the BMA urging the union to return to negotiations over a new contract for junior doctors.

The BMA has welcomed the approach but said it was still seeking clarification on some of the points raised.

In a conciliatory letter sent yesterday to Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, Mr Hunt said that he was aware that for the BMA, the key issues for a new junior doctors contract were one that promoted both patient safety and fairness for doctors.

“I share exactly the same aims for the new contract as you do,” said Mr Hunt. “As you know, I have put improving safety and quality at the heart of my time as health secretary and I agree with you that junior doctors play a vital role in the NHS and deserve to be treated with fairness and equity.”

Mr Hunt gave several assurances including that:

  • it was not a cost cutting exercise
  • the new contract should improve patient safety by better supporting a seven-day NHS
  • the number of hours worked by junior doctors would reduce
  • NHS Employers has been asked to develop the new contract to ensure the “great majority” of junior doctors are “at least as well paid” as they would be now.

The letter says: “In addition, although the current proposal does not provide protection for those whose pay reduces when they change jobs, under an agreed move to a new contract we would be willing to consider such protection for individual doctors who would otherwise lose out.

“In any scenario, I can give an absolute guarantee that average pay for juniors will not reduce.”

Mr Hunt said he had already given assurances that GP trainees would not be disadvantaged compared with the current system.

“I can also say that it is our intention that flexible pay premia would be used to support recruitment into shortage specialties such as A&E medicine and general practice.”

Mr Hunt criticised the BMA for misleading doctors over the impact of the government’s proposals, saying: “I am saddened by the distress being caused to junior doctors who were misled by the calculator on the BMA website into believing that their pay will be cut by 30% and that they will be asked to work many more hours each week.

“As you know, the government has been saying privately to the BMA for many months that we have no such intention. The best deal for junior doctors will be achieved by the BMA coming to the table to negotiate on their behalf and I urge you now to do this.”

Responding to the letter, the BMA’s Dr Malawana said: “It is encouraging that the health secretary has finally recognised the vital role that junior doctors play as tomorrow’s leaders across the NHS. However, questions still remain and we are urgently seeking clarification on the points raised in the letter.”

The RCGP’s chair Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the letter as a way of clarifying the situation on the junior doctors’ contract, saying: “We hope that it will help to unblock the current impasse.

“We are pleased that he has listened to our concerns, particularly around GP recruitment with the inclusion of pay protection for doctors who change to shortage specialties such as general practice.”

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