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Hunt set to impose contract on junior doctors after BMA rejects 'final offer'

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to impose a contract on junior doctors after failing to offer the BMA adequate concessions on weekend working. 

After yesterday’s strike, Salford Trust chief executive Sir David Dalton - who was drafted in to broker a deal - wrote to Mr Hunt to say: ’Everyone’s first preference has always been for a negotiated outcome. Unfortunately this no longer seems possible.’

It follows a ‘final offer’ made to the BMA, which agreed to pay premium rates to all junior doctors who worked 1 in 4 weekends or more for all Saturdays they worked.

But the BMA rejected the offer, stating that it had made its line clear, and wanted to redistribute much of the 11% increase to basic pay to more adequately remunerate Saturday working.

As a result, it looks likely that a contract will be imposed on junior doctors.

Sir David’s letter said: ’Following consultation with chief executives and other leaders in the service, it is clear that the NHS needs certainty on this contract and that a continuation of a dispute, with a stalemate and without any clear ending, would be harmful to service continuity, with adverse consequences to patients.

’On this basis I therefore advise the Government to do whatever it deems necessary to end uncertainty for the service and to make sure that a new contract is in place which is as close as possible to the final position put forward to the BMA yesterday.’ 

Mr Hunt yesterday said he ’hopes it doesn’t get to’ a potential contract imposition on junior doctors, but warned that there ‘has to be a resolution’ to the row over whether Saturday working should be classed as unsocial hours.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt claimed that the turnout to today’s strike was lower than the 12 January strike with 43% of junior doctors reporting for shift compared with 39% last time - although both figures including juniors working on emergency care who would never be part of the strike.

Currently weekends and hours worked between 7pm and 7am attract an ’unsocial’ hours payment, which Mr Hunt says disincentivises trusts from rotating senior clinicians.

But the BMA have raised concerns about protections to prevent junior doctors being overworked, and say the proposals could amount to a pay cut for doctors working the longest hours.

The industrial action was sparked when the Department of Health said they would impose their junior doctors contract after negotiations broke down last year.

But Mr Hunt failed to rule out another potential imposition of the contract. When asked if the Government would impose a contract, Mr Hunt said: ‘I really hope it doesn’t get to that, in the end we do have to have resolution to this - as a lot of people inside the NHS are now beginning to say. 

He added: ’[The DH proposals] will mean we can offer better care for patients, and surely that’s something we should be talking about. Not taking this very damaging industrial action.’

The Independent this week reported that Mr Hunt had personally vetoed a cost-neutral settlement on Saturday pay agreed by the BMA and NHS Employers.

When this was put to him, Mr Hunt said: ‘There’s been no rejection of any proposals or plans that would deal with this weekend effect that is of such concern to patients and the public.’

More than half of the 26,000 junior doctors who would typically be working yesterday are participating in industrial action.

Senior doctors have been covering rotas for their junior colleagues and NHS England reports that 72% of the total hospital trust workforce including doctors and consultants are in work.

It estimates that almost 3,000 procedures have been cancelled as a result of the industrial action - 1,150 inpatient and 1,734 day cases.

Dr Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said: ‘It is deeply regrettable that this strike has disrupted care for thousands of patients at the most pressurised time of year and we apologise to anyone affected. It’s a tough day but the NHS is pulling out all the stops, with senior doctors and nurses often stepping in to provide cover.’

Read how the end of the negotiations unfolded here

Readers' comments (43)

  • Jeremy Hunt has poor memory.He imposed GP contract to such effect that there are no GP applying for jobs in best areas. Now the resort is to offer 20000 pounds bursary and winter indemnity to encourage people to work in shortage areas and OOH.Also it cost more to hire agency staff as most of the people are retiring,leaving profession or leaving for greener pasture. Will quality of care be affected-of course losing experiences hand and losing staff is any organisation's nightmare. It affects the quality of care and expensive in long term with high patient cost.
    Sorry Jeremy if you impose any contract you lose more

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  • When will he realise that we can certainly do without politicians but not doctors? I really hope Junior doctors stick together and patients take some initiative and call for his resignation over handling of contract and make this man pay for the his stubborn behaviour. I wish we GP had shown such unity.

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  • Once the junior doctors are forced to capitulate the DoH will try and do the same to physiotherapists, radiographers, nurses, receptionists, typists, occupational therapists, social workers, porters, GPs, and hospital consultants. I bet some of those groups will strike long-term. So the DoH aims to reduce all incomes by 30%. That will probably be in addition to the drop that many of us are already having to cope with.

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  • the contract will be imposed and all NHS staff will be next.

    as mentioned in the past government/state are in a win:win situation. either we all agree to a massive changes in t&cs or we all walk out and the NHS ceases to exist. either way it gets rid of the costs of the NHS.

    I think it is no accident that they took on the group of NHS staff that would be hardest to tackle - they know if they can push through the contract for junior doctors then other NHS staff would have no chance of stopping them.

    The question now is what next - what is the exit plan for juniors?

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  • Vinci Ho

    You see.
    If I was Agent Hunt , I would not back down. The 'achievement' of conquering this saga would be unique and personal. His reputation amongst his party colleagues would transcend egregiously. At a time when the reputation of the leader of the party is hanging on the balance , this achievement would be ground breaking. I am sure his wife has given him a lot of 'encouragement'.

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  • HUNT IS LETTING DOWN THE PUBLIC. THIS "POLITICAL CRIMINAL" HAS WAGED WAR ON THE PUBLIC SECTOR FOR TOO LONG.
    HE IS A MENACE, LIKE ZIKA VIRUS.
    COULD WE HAVE HIM GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM)? MAYBE REMOVE DAILY MAIL GENES AND IMPLANT A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE GENE??

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  • John Glasspool

    I am proud.....To have spent a little while this am on the picket line with younger colleagues at Southampton General. I took them some doughnuts and two huge chocolate slab cakes from Sainsbury's. Not surprisingly none of them were wearing a hammer and sickle. I had a chat with two charming young Acute Medicine trainees, (almost made me want to be ill!) and an equally delightful paediatric trainee, who brought along her 9m old as well. Bless them all. They are our future.

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  • Guy is bonkers. I hope he will realize that in his position you don't threaten people with dire consequences when all they really wish for is to discuss and negotiate real terms and be able to return to the jobs they love.
    As a politician he is dumb and as a negotiator - a big ZERO.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Correct the name of the virus , not Zika.
    It is called FOV220,000

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  • This is a useful distraction from the EU debate

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