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Health secretary rolls back on claim that no junior doctors will lose out

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted his ‘cast-iron’ guarantee that no junior doctor’s individual pay would reduce with proposed contract changes does not apply to everyone.

Put on the spot by MPs in a House of Commons debate requested by the Labour Party yesterday, Mr Hunt was forced to admit doctors opted out of the European Working Time Directive, working more than 56 hours per week, would not see their pay protected.

Ahead of the debate, Mr Hunt sent a new plea to the BMA to return to the negotiation table ahead of a strike ballot next week.

But the BMA said his new admission was just another example to prove it could not trust the Government in negotiations.

At the debate, former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said that Mr Hunt had said junior doctors ’working within maximum legal hours’ - ie, the 48 hours a week specified by the EWTD - would not see their pay go down.

Mr Lamb asked: ’What about doctors who have opted out of [the EWTD] and are working 60 or 70 hours? Could they lose out?’

Mr Hunt responded: ’If they opted out of the working time directive, [the commitment] would apply up to 56 hours.

’For people who are working more than the legal limits, even after opting out, the right answer is to stop them working those extra hours because it is not safe for patients.’

Just hours previously, Mr Hunt had pleaded with the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee to replace the strike ballot with negotiations - reiterating the claim that no junior doctor would see their pay cut. 

He wrote: ’Today in the House of Commons I am giving a firm guarantee on behalf of the Government that no junior doctor will see their pay cut compared to their current contract… As the Junior Doctors Committee moves towards a ballot of its members, I will be setting out the full details of the Government’s contractual offer to junior doctors in the coming days.

’However, I sincerely hope that on the basis of these assurances you will reconsider your refusal to enter negotiations.’

But JDC chair Dr Johann Malawana responded: ’Just hours after promising that no junior doctor would have a pay cut, Jeremy Hunt has now admitted that those working the longest hours would in fact see their pay fall. Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly shifted his position and this is another example of the health secretary claiming one thing, but the reality being quite different.

‘It makes it impossible for junior doctors to trust the Government when they have been caught out trying to gloss over the facts.’

The Commons debate also saw Mr Hunt warned against removing the GP training supplement, with Scottish National Party MP for Central Ayrshire Dr Philippa Whitford, a former hospital consultant, saying: ’There has also been talk of taking away the guaranteed income protection of GP trainees, there to try to keep them at the same level as they were, and replacing it with a discretionary payment. Such a payment can be taken away at any time - it can be cut and it can be changed.

’The secretary of state aspires to have 5,000 extra GPs by 2020. We know from the BMA that one third of GPs - 10,000 out of just over 30,000 - are planning to leave, which means we need to find 15,000 extra GPs. Anything that is a disincentive for people to go into that profession is not serving the NHS.’

As well as removing the GP training supplement, the proposed changes, which would come into effect next August, would extend the definition of ’sociable’ hours, so that Saturday and evening work would be paid the same as standard weekday working.



Readers' comments (13)

  • How do you know a politician is lying? his mouth is open. enough said

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  • After the broken promises from the 2004 contract, I would not trust anything unless it was written clearly in a contract.
    The DoH are not stupid and have their own reasons for wanting to change things. The most benign explanation is that they want more unsocial working for the same money but I would bet they have sneaked in some other changes which will become clear later.
    I do not trust anything this man says.

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  • Don't buy snake oil from a snake.

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  • Increadible! (Or perhaps not really).
    We all know that the whole point of his actions were to use the 7 day a week issue to sneak in a whole raft of other changes. He must think we are all really really astonishingly stupid to have tried it on in the first place.
    It was also very funny after being caught out by us, to start bleating about the BMA causing the confusion.
    Being forced to come clean about what thousands of us already have worked out for ourselves is really amusing to see.
    It must be so humiliating to have been caught out and to have to squirm in infront of the world's media.
    He is an embarrassment for the government but at least he has acomplished one useful thing and this is to have united pretty much the majority of the medical profession!

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  • Ah but he got his national headlines. Now he can quietly deny everything he said, safe in the knowledge that it wont be reported.

    He is untrustworthy and devious, but you have to give him his due - he does POLITICS very well.

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  • The worst health secretary in the history of the health service. Can't the Prime Minister see what a dud he has.

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  • The only reasonable response is strike action

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  • I dont get all this negativity ! The man wears an NHS badge - surely we should trust him ?

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  • Dear Sessional/Locum GP29 Oct 2015 3:35pm
    Have you resigned? If not I expect your resignation soon. Otherwise just shut up.

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  • Private GP 30 October 7:01

    Resigned or not GP 29 October 3.35pm
    Should have every right to say what ever he wants.
    He is only expressing the ambivalent and tortured state so many GPs in the UK find themselves in

    AND "private GP" do the same on behalf of your friends and colleagues who are suffering

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  • This is just a game
    We are pieces on a chess board being played with like the Gods of Olympus moved effigies of us around on the map of the Earth below.
    Like Gods our politicians live in the deluded state that we are their followers and that what they do is always good for us.
    Like Gods they believe that personal gain is acceptable and as their people we should accept that and are surprised when we don't.
    BUT we are the GODS not them. They are our people, voted by us to serve us.
    We put them in place and have the right to say "do it differently."
    We move them on our chess board not vice versa.
    This government needs to wake up to what the House of Lords did to the benefits bill because for once a part of our political system did the correct thing and stood up for us realising that we p, members of this nation, define what is right for us.

    So no more messing around. Time to put our politicians in their right place. Time for us to define the role they play in our lives. Which frankly at this moment should be very little. Shame on you!

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  • Norman Lamb, like many you are not perfect but to err is human and you are very human in my eyes.... My kind of human.

    Where are you when we need you?

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