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Junior doctors to be balloted on industrial action

Junior doctors are going to ballot on possible industrial action over the imposition of a contract which they say are unfair to doctors and could endanger patient safety, but the Government has claimed that GP trainees’ pay will not go down. 

The BMA’s junior doctors committee (JDC) took the decision to ballot members at its meeting on Saturday, with more details to be released over the coming weeks.

It comes as the Government categorically stated that the pay of GP trainees will not go down, and that the new supplement for GP registrars will be ‘almost identical to the system that already operates’.

The new chair of the JDC, Johann Malawana, said that the Government had ’chosen to ride roughshod over the concerns of doctors with their threat of imposition’.

He added: ’Today’s decision is a reflection of the anger felt by the thousands of junior doctors who have told us that the Government’s position is not acceptable.’

However, NHS Employers has said that GP trainees’ pay will not be affected by the changes.

In the clearest indication about GP trainee pay yet, NHS Employers said that the current supplement for GP trainees will be replaced by a ‘pay premia’ that would be targeted at shortage specialties as determined by Health Education England.

However, junior doctor leaders warned that the flexibility of the new premium means that there will be scope to reduce GP trainees’ pay depending on circumstances.

The Government last week announced that it would remove the supplement for GP trainees that equalises their pay to that of hospital junior doctors.

As the current contract stands, GP registrars receive a supplement because they work fewer hours and less out-of-hours than hospital trainees, meaning their banding and pay would be much lower without the supplement.

NHS Employers say this is this is effectively a recruitment and retention payment, to ensure that training as a GP is not financially less attractive than training in a hospital specialty.

The GP Survival group warned last week that the removal of the supplement would see GP trainee pay decrease by 31%.

In its response, the Government said it was going to replace the supplement with the pay premia, but both the BMA and the RCGP called for more clarity about what form this will take.

Following questioning by Pulse, an NHS Employers spokesperson said: ‘We have no intention of reducing GP pay. GP registrar earnings will not go down as a result of the proposed new arrangements.

‘The proposed new system would be almost identical to the system that already operates for GP trainees, except that this type of pay supplement – a flexible pay premia – could now also be paid to doctors in other shortage specialties, as well as GPs.

‘What’s more, rather than being determined solely by DDRB and the government, Health Education England would be asked to make recommendations about the supplement using its workforce expertise, so that it would be more sensitive to recruitment and retention issues, not less.’

But Dr Andrew Collier, former co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, told Pulse: ‘The concerns that we would have about the shift from the current supplement to flexible pay premia is that the flexible pay premia could be at risk at future funding reviews.

‘Trainees need a degree of certainty when choosing a specialty like general practice, but this is simply not going to be available in the new system.’

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