Government to impose contract on junior doctors

Junior doctors strike Worthing Hospital February 10 2016 SUS-161002-122342001
Junior doctors strike Worthing Hospital February 10 2016 SUS-161002-122342001

The government is imposing a contract on junior doctors, following two days of strike action this year.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the plans to introduce a new contract after a final offer was rejected by the British Medical Association, the union which represents doctors.

Mr Hunt said he had been left with no choice after the union refused to compromise over proposed changes to junior doctors’ contracts.

He added the government had been willing to be ‘flexible’ on the issue of Saturday pay.

Chief negotiator Sir David Dalton was asked to lead the negotiating team for the government, but despite some successes, he wrote to Mr Hunt on Wednesday saying a ‘negotiated resolution’ with the BMA was not realistically possible.

Mr Hunt said he was advised imposing the contract would end the current ‘uncertainty of services’ following the cancellation of appointments and operations in the UK.

Doctors walked out on strike for 24 hours on February 10 and on January 12, although still provided emergency care for patients in Sussex.

Negotiations between the BMA and NHS Employers for new consultants and junior doctors’ contracts began in October 2013.

Doctors argued the changes – proposed to improve seven-day NHS services — will result in a pay cut and will be unsafe for patients.

The new contract proposes an 11 per cent rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

However, the number of hours during the week which are classed as ‘unsociable’ and therefore better paid – are being cut. This includes Saturday.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “The decision to impose a contract is a sign of total failure on the Government’s part. Instead of working with the BMA to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of patients, junior doctors and the NHS as a whole the Government has walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer put forward by the BMA. Instead it wants to impose a flawed contract on a generation of junior doctors who have lost all trust in the Health Secretary.

“Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the Government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it. Rather than addressing these issues, the Health Secretary is ploughing ahead with proposals that are fundamentally unfair.”

The government is also planning to scrap guaranteed pay increases, linked to time in the job, and replace them with a system where junior doctors progress through different stages in training.

It is believed the BMA put offered a proposal during talks that would have seen doctors’ basic pay rise by half the 11 per cent offered by the government in return for Saturday not be treated as a normal working day. However the offer was rejected.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt argued the BMA is the ‘only reason’ a solution to the dispute has not been found.

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