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‘Historic’ junior doctor agreement will pave way for seven-day NHS, says Hunt



Jeremy Hunt has told parliament that the new junior doctor agreement would allow the Government to deliver a seven day NHS and increase junior doctor morale after an agreement was reached yesterday between the BMA and the Government.

Calling the agreement ‘historic’, Mr Hunt thanked the BMA for ‘the leadership they have shown in returning to talks, negotiating in good faith and making an agreement possible’.

Mr Hunt said that the contract would ‘allow the Government to deliver a seven-day NHS, improve patient safety, support much-needed productivity improvements’, but also benefit the junior doctors, ‘strengthening the morale and quality of life of junior doctors with a modern contract fit for a modern health service.’

Saying that the ‘disruptive industrial action’ leading up to the agreement was ‘a matter of great regret’, Mr Hunt said to junior doctors: ‘The Government has heard and understood the wider frustrations that you feel about the way you are valued and treated in the NHS.’

He added the Government ‘will continue to engage constructively with you to try to resolve outstanding issues as we proceed on our journey to tackle head on the challenges the NHS faces and make it the safest, highest quality healthcare system anywhere in the world.’

Of the measures in the new contract, he said: ‘Whilst they do not remove every bugbear or frustration they will significantly improve flexibility and work life balance for doctors, leading we hope to improved retention rates, higher morale and better care for patients.’

The contract will be published at the end of this month and BMA members will be balloted on the revised agreement. Mr Hunt said they will publish an equalities analysis of the new terms, something that they failed to do with the previous contract, which led to the BMA initiating a judicial review against them. 

Details of the new contract

The new contract means that doctors who work less than one weekend day a month, receive no additional pay premium, while basic pay increases 10-11%. Mr Hunt said that the new contract also had several points to ‘improve the wellbeing of our critical junior doctor workforce’ by:

  • ‘reducing the maximum hours a doctor can be asked to work in any one week from 91 to 72
  • reducing the number of nights a doctor can be asked to work consecutively to 4 and reducing the number of long days a doctor can be asked to work to 5
  • introducing a new post, a Guardian of Safe Working, in every trust to guard against doctors being asked to work excessive hours
  • introducing a new catch up programme for doctors who take maternity leave or time off for other caring responsibilities
  • establishing a review by Health Education England to consider how best to allow couples to apply to train in the same area and to offer training placements for those with caring responsibilities close to their home
  • by giving pay protection to doctors who switch specialties because of caring responsibilities
  • establishing a review to inform a new requirement on trusts to consider caring and other family responsibilities when designing rotas.’