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Hunt pledge: ‘no junior doctors will lose out’

Health secretary says BMA has created ‘unnecessary anger’ amongst doctors

Mark Gould

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has used a House of Commons debate to promise that junior doctors working up to the legal limit on working hours will not lose money under a proposed new contract.

Mr Hunt made his remarks in a debate called by Labour to focus on the changes to junior doctor contracts, which are due to be made by government. He said the new contract was "about patient care and not saving money". The BMA said Mr Hunt had "finally made a significant shift" but said it wanted more details.

And in a letter to Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the BMA junior doctor's committee, Mr Hunt gives "a firm guarantee" that no junior doctor will see their pay cut compared to their current contract.

He told Dr Malawana that "It is deeply regrettable that so many of your members still believe that pay cuts in the order of 30 or 40% are on the table.

"I am told the pay calculator on the BMA website which implied this has now been withdrawn, but to date there has been not attempt to correct the misinformation and fear which quite understandably spread as a result," he wrote.

Calling for junior doctors to return to the negotiating table, Mr Hunt said he would be "setting out the full details of the government's contractual offer to junior doctors in the coming days". And he made it clear that more details would be made public before the BMA ballot on strike action would begin on 5 November. His letter said the new contract would mean no junior doctor would be required to work more than 48 hours per week, with a new maximum of 72 hours per week. He said current contracts allow a maximum of more than 90 hours per week. The BMA ballot will last two weeks.

As it stands junior doctors get extra payments for work outside normal hours - which are currently classified as 07:00 to 19:00, Monday to Friday. The new contract would see these hours extended to include 07:00 to 22:00 on every day except Sunday. Debate has raged over pay, with the BMA claiming the new contracts could result in cuts of up to 30%.

But Mr Hunt told the Commons this was not the case, and said the BMA had chosen to "wind up their own members and create a huge amount of unnecessary anger".

In response to the debate, Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said. "In order to give the best care to patients across seven days, NHS staff - including medical staff - will need to work differently. Trusts are clear that the current contracts for both consultants and junior doctors must be reformed to provide modernised and safe seven-day services in our hospitals. For junior doctors, these vital changes will deliver a safer working environment with better support, supervision and training throughout the whole week. Now is as important as ever for the BMA to return to negotiations so that we can develop a contract that is fair for doctors and patients."

Picture credit: Secretary of State for Health, Department of Health Crown Copyright/ Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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