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Doctors demand further concessions for resumption of contract negotiations

GPs among 2000+ signatories to letter to Jeremy Hunt published today

Caroline White

Monday, 12 October 2015

GPs are among more than 2,000 signatories to a letter sent yesterday to health secretary Jeremy Hunt outlining persistent concerns about the proposed changes to the junior doctors’ contract, and demanding further concessions before negotiations can resume.

Last week, the health secretary wrote to the chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, urging it to get back round the negotiating table in a bid to settle the long running dispute over pay and conditions.

The latest letter, the full text of which has been posted on The Guardian online, was sent on behalf of GPs, consultants, and medical students, as well as junior doctors, in response to Mr Hunt’s missive.

It queries the link between the complex data on the ‘weekend effect,’ which suggests that patients admitted at weekends are more likely to die within 30 days of admission than patients admitted at other times of the week, and current government policy for a 24/7 service.

Despite Mr Hunt’s assurances that juniors will not be exploited or overworked, the signatories say they remain “perplexed” that as the proposals stand, “vital safeguards that penalise trusts for overworking doctors” will be removed, posing risks not only to doctors, but also to patients.

They also voice concerns about the proposed removal of pay protection and pay progression that is intended to reflect clinical experience. This will discourage doctors from carrying out medical research and disadvantage women who have chosen to work less than full time.

The letter goes on to say that the health secretary’s pledge that the new contract is not a cost cutting exercise and that on average no junior will lose out financially from the proposals is to be welcomed.

But the signatories emphasise: “We feel strongly that not one hard working doctor should be financially worse off, and that doctors working unsocial hours must not have their pay cut.”

They point out that the NHS is the envy of the world. “This is not just about our pay; it is about our patients; it is about our NHS that we love so much; and it is about the recognition of the care, sacrifice and dedication of NHS staff who routinely go above and beyond their contractual duties.”

It concludes by saying that the signatories, which number more than 2000, stand behind the BMA, and agree that the government has not made sufficient concessions to kick start a further round of negotiations. “The proposals remain unfair to doctors and unsafe for patients,” it says.

And it concludes that all the signatories hope that a constructive dialogue can be resumed in a bid to avert industrial action.

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