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New contract for junior doctors set to be imposed

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will make a statement to Parliament later today

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The government looks set announce later today that it will impose a new contract on junior doctors.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to make a statement to parliament on the situation and he is expected to announce plans to impose a contract on junior doctors because efforts to negotiate a contract have failed.

Yesterday, thousands of junior doctors could be found on picket lines outside hospitals in England as in protest over the changes to their contract that the government wants to introduce. The 24 hour period of industrial action, which saw all but emergency cover withdrawn, ended at 8am this morning.

Junior doctors are being offered a 11% pay rise but the sticking point is that work on Saturday will no longer being paid at an enhanced rate as it is now, meaning doctors that work the most unsociable hours could see their pay cut. The BMA is believed to have proposed a deal that would have cost no more and would have seen junior doctors paid a much lower rise but with Saturday work still attracting a higher rate of pay. However, the option was not accepted.

It now appears that negotiators representing the Department of Health and NHS Employers put forward another deal late on Tuesday afternoon as part of last-ditch talks to avert the industrial action.

The final ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offer was apparently rejected by the BMA on Wednesday.

That final offer, described as the “best and final” by the Department of Health’s lead negotiator, Sir David Dalton, is believed to have offered more generous terms on Saturday working than the government’s previous offer, with doctors working at least one in four Saturdays getting extra pay for each one they work, compared with the previous offer which set the threshold for extra pay was at one Saturday in three.

The offer is also believed to have included increasing fines levied against trusts for over-working doctors, and increasing the extra pay medics get for very long hours.

In a letter to the Health Secretary yesterday, Sir David said that he had given the BMA until 3pm yesterday afternoon to accept the deal, and they had rejected it. He advised “the government to do whatever it deems necessary” to put a new contract in place.

“The BMA has refused to compromise on its insistence that the whole of Saturday must be paid at a premium rate. In contrast Employers’ position has moved several times, on each occasion offering more hours attracting premium pay,” he said.

Picture: London, 12 January 2016. Junior doctors strike against planned government changes to their pay and working conditions. Credit: Ms Jane Campbell / Shutterstock.com

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