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Health committee chair calls on Government to reverse contract imposition

The chair of the House of Commons health committee, former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, has called on the Government to withdraw plans to impose junior doctor contract changes.

The plea from the Conservative MP comes as the BMA announced it will ballot junior doctors on industrial action.

However, writing in a comment piece for the Telegraph, Dr Wollaston argued that this is a fight that ‘will help no one’.

In the piece, Dr Wollaston said that ’[t]he breakdown in negotiations risks driving even more junior doctors overseas and keeping them there, making safer weekend working even harder to achieve’.

She said this would exacerbate the current situation, where health secretary Jeremy Hunt already faces an ‘exodus’ of junior doctors moving overseas to practice after completing training in the UK. But she also had a warning to the BMA regarding industrial action.

She said: ’Ultimately, Mr Hunt may have the power to impose the new contract on junior doctors, but at what cost? Likewise, the BMA must be aware that industrial action would harm patients, and risk the doctors’ reputation.

’It would be better for both sides to step back, withdraw the contract and the strike threats, and instead agree to start a new process of negotiation: one that tackles the wider issues for juniors and is based on shared objectives to improve care.’

Citing a need to improve NHS safety on weekends, the Government’s imposed changes include reducing pay premiums for working unsocial hours and scrapping the supplement currently paid to GP trainees as a recruitment incentive. Despite this, NHS Employers has said that GP trainees’ pay will not be affected by the changes.