Junior doctors' strike: Your questions answered

Nick Triggle answers your questions on the junior doctors strike

Hospitals in England are facing major disruption as junior doctors have gone on strike in a dispute with the government over a new contract.

The walkout - the first of two planned for the coming weeks - comes after talks between the union and government failed to reach agreement on the proposed new contract.

The BMA is concerned about pay for weekend working, career progression and safeguards to protect doctors from being overworked.

But ministers have argued the current arrangements are outdated and changes are needed to improve standards of care at the weekend.

Our health correspondent Nick Triggle has been answering your questions on the issue. Here is a selection of your questions:

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Alfred Newman asks: Doesn't the government simply want to take away overtime pay and incorporate it into a seven day contract, meaning junior doctors will be paid far less for working weekends?

Nick Triggle replies: The NHS is available 24/7 - but the government just wants to increase the number of services available at weekends.

The contract put forward means they will not get as much as they would have for working weekends as they do under the new contract, but they have guaranteed they won't lose out overall.

I guess the best way to describe this is no more money but more weekend working.

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Robert Colquhoun asks why doctors are querying things now: They knew the pay and conditions well in advance of taking up their vocation, nobody forced them into it.

Nick Triggle explains: The whole pay argument is very complex. What we can say is the government has guaranteed that no-one - bar a very small number that do lots of overtime - will lose out on day one.

But the issue is that they will have to work more weekends without getting the extra pay they would have done and in the future their pay may not go up by as much because guaranteed paid rises linked to time-in-the-job are being scrapped and replaced with something more akin to performance-related pay.

Obviously there are lots of jobs where you don't know what you will be paid in a year or two's time. But doctors would argue medicine is different. They go into lots of debt to get into it and need some security about what the career progression is.

Rahul Mukherjee asks: How does the government expect to increase provision of weekend services with no additional funding and no additional junior doctors?

Having junior doctors work more weekends means less available to work during the week unless you increase working hours.

The government have said that over the course of this parliament there will be extra consultants and GPs recruited to meet demand. But it takes 10 years to train a consultant after five-to-six-years of medical school. It's five years to train a GP after medical school.

So with the current recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, where are these additional staff going to come from?

Nick Triggle says: That is a very good question. Many argue the government has failed to set out exactly how it wants to use junior doctors. If hours don't increase and you don't recruit more then you are going to have fewer during the week.

There has been talk of nurses taking on more responsibilities - the government has promised there will be more of them.

And as you say GP and consultant numbers are due to go up. But this is something the government is probably going to have to address as this dispute continues.

You can see the whole Facebook Q&A session here.

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