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Health secretary to impose new contract on junior doctors

The health secretary has announced that he is going ahead with the imposition of the junior doctors’ contract after negotiations with the BMA had broken down.

In a statement to the House of Commons today, Jeremy Hunt said he has ’decided to proceed’ with the imposition following instruction from the chief negotiator.

As part of the new contract, he said no junior doctor will work consecutive weekends and there will be a 13.5% increase in basic pay, but said that Saturday working will not be recompensed at the current rate.

It comes after the Government refused to cede to the BMA’s demands that junior doctors should be paid premium rates for Saturday working.

Other elements of the new contract include:

  • Redefining the definition of ‘plain time’ to include Saturday from 7am to 5pm;
  • Paying a premium of 30% for Saturday ‘plain time’ working, if the doctor works one in four weekends;
  • Reduce the definition of ‘safe hours’ from 91 to 72 hours a week;
  • Doctors will not work more than four consecutive nights – down from seven currently;
  • The maximum number of consecutive ‘long days’ will be reduced from seven to five;
  • A new ‘Guardian’ role will be introduced, who will have the authority to impose fines for breaches to agreed working hours, which will be invested in educational resources and facilities for trainees.

He added: ’It does represent a reduction compared to current rates, necessary to ensure hospitals can afford additional weekend rostering. So because we do not want take home pay to go down for junior doctors, after updated modelling I can tell the House these changes will allow an increase in basic salary of not 11% as previously thought but 13.5%.

’Three-quarters of doctors will see a take home pay rise and no trainee working within contracted hours will have their pay cut.’

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said the whole dispute ’could have been handled differently’, and criticised Mr Hunt’s ‘decision to make this a fight over the concept of seven-day working’.

During yesterday’s strike, Sir David Dalton – the chief executive of Salford Foundation Trust, who was drafted in by the Government to broker a deal – wrote to Mr Hunt to say that a ’negotiated outcome… no longer seems possible’.

He called on Mr Hunt to do ’whatever it deems necessary to end uncertainty for the service, and 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’.

Under the ‘final offer’, junior doctors would receive premium pay for Saturday working if they worked one weekend in four, which Sir David said would cover the ‘majority’ of junior doctors working on a Saturday.

However, the BMA reiterrated its position that all junior doctors working on a Saturday should be paid a premium, and referred to its original cost neutral plan that would see basic pay reduced to pay for Saturday working.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ’We are shocked and dismayed at the Government’s decision to impose a contract on our dedicated and committed junior doctors. Imposing a deal on junior doctors is wrong-headed, will inevitably damage morale across the NHS – and may damage patient care.’