Ministers wrong in junior doctors row, says ex-adviser

NHS protest Image copyright Getty Images

Ministers should "apologise" to junior doctors and row back on imposing a new contract in England, the government's former patient safety adviser says.

Prof Don Berwick, who led a review for government on safety three years ago, said there should be a three-year moratorium on the new contract.

He said the NHS had a "demoralised" workforce and needed to find another way out of the "mess".

Ministers have said the new contract is needed to improve safety at weekends.

But Prof Berwick cast doubt on that by saying it may be "impossible" for the NHS to tackle the issue given the current level of funding, the HSJ reports.

Speaking at an event in London at the King's Fund think-tank, Prof Berwick said: "You cannot achieve excellence in combat with your future workforce, it makes no sense at all.

"So you need to find a way to de-escalate... I think the government should apologise."

But Prof Berwick, who has also acted as a health adviser to US President Barack Obama, said there did not need to be resignations but urged ministers to acknowledge their "mistake".

He also urged junior doctors to have "some courage and generosity" and embrace some of the changes being made.

How far apart were the two sides?

Image copyright PA
  • The BMA wants all day Saturday for everyone to be paid at 50% above the basic rate
  • The government is only offering extra pay after 5pm
  • But they have offered to top up the pay by 30% for those who work regular Saturdays - defined as at least one in four
  • Agreement has not been reached on on-call allowances, how limits on working hours are to be policed and days off between night shifts
  • The government has offered a basic pay rise of 13.5%
  • The BMA has said it is willing to accept between a 4% and 7% hike in basic pay to cover the weekend pay issue

Want to know more?

Was a contract deal ever possible?

The junior doctors row explained

What exactly do junior doctors do?

How does your job compare?

Prof Berwick is the most high profile figure yet to speak out against the decision to impose the new contract.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement earlier this month after talks with the British Medical Association broke down.

The BMA has argued the deal is "flawed" and say they have put forward a "fair and affordable" alternative.

The new contract, which reduces payments for weekend working, will start being rolled out in the summer.

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