Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that he will impose the new junior doctor contract, despite a majority of doctors rejecting it.
In a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Hunt said the Government does ‘now need to proceed with the implementation of the new contract, to end uncertainty’.
Mr Hunt said his door remained open to the BMA to discuss ’both the way the new contract is implemented, extra contractual issues like training and rostering and the contents of future contracts’.
The contract that would be imposed will be the compromise negotiated with the BMA in May rather than the orginal offer made by the Government.
Mr Hunt said: ‘I do believe the agreement negotiated in May is better for junior doctors, and better for the NHS than the original contract we planned to introduce in March.
‘So rather than try to wind the clock back to the March contract, we will not change any of the new terms agreed with the BMA.’
He also said the contract would be phased in.
He said: ‘Last night Professor Dame Sue Baily, president of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said that the NHS and junior doctors needed to move on from this dispute, and that if the government proceeds with the new contract, it should be implemented in a phased way, that allowed time to learn from any teething problems.
‘After listening to this advice, and further careful considerations of the equalities impact of the new contract, I have this morning decided that e only realistic way to end this impasse is to proceed with the phased introduction of the exact contract that was negotiated, agreed, and supported by the BMA leadership.’
Addressing why he had made the decision, Mr Hunt said it was also influenced by the political unrest that has followed the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
He said: ‘Protracted uncertainty at precisely the time we grapple with enormous consequences of leaving the EU can only be damaging to those working in the NHS and on patients who depend on it.’
The BMA announced yesterday that 58% of junior doctors and medical students had voted against accepting the negotiated deal.
But Mr Hunt suggested that since a third of eligible voters had not participated, this meant only 40% of doctors were against it.
He told MPs that the contract will be introduced from October this year for more senior obstetrics trainees, then in November and December for foundation year one doctors taking up new posts, and foundation year two doctors on the same rotas as their current contract expires.
More specialties such as paediatrics, psychiatry, and pathology, as well as surgical trainees will transition in the same way to the new contract between February and April next year, with remaining trainees by October 2017.
Mr Hunt also promised to address concerns of junior doctors including the gender pay gap, by commissioning a report, and looking into the issue of shared parental leave.
Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said she welcomed these actions, but added that ‘at this time of general instability, I would urge the Government to reconsider imposing this contract at all’.