Junior doctors will not lose money in new contract - Hunt

Junior doctors and their supporters taking part in a march through the centre of Newcastle Image copyright PA
Image caption Junior doctors have been taking part in protests across the country over the new proposed contract

No junior doctors working up to the legal limit on working hours will lose money under a proposed new contract, the health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt made his remarks in a debate called by Labour to focus on the changes to junior doctor contracts, which are due to be made by government.

He said the new contract was "about patient care and not saving money".

The British Medical Association said Mr Hunt had "finally made a significant shift" but said it wanted more details.

Mr Hunt has also written to the BMA "giving a firm guarantee" that no junior doctor will see their pay cut compared to their current contract.

When asked how extending the "normal working hours" of junior doctors would not result in a loss of money, the Department of Health told the BBC more details would be announced "in the coming days".

'Unnecessary anger'

As it stands junior doctors get extra payments for work outside normal hours - which are currently classified as 07:00 to 19:00, Monday to Friday.

The new contract would see these hours extended to include 07:00 to 22:00 on every day except Sunday.

Debate has raged over pay, with the BMA claiming the new contracts could result in cuts of up to 30%.

But Mr Hunt told the Commons this was not the case, and said the BMA had chosen to "wind up their own members and create a huge amount of unnecessary anger".


In his letter to the BMA, he added: "It is deeply regrettable that so many of your members still believe that pay cuts in the order of 30 or 40% are on the table.

"I am told the pay calculator on the BMA website which implied this has now been withdrawn, but to date there has been not attempt to correct the misinformation and fear which quite understandably spread as a result."

He wrote that he would be "setting out the full details of the government's contractual offer to junior doctors in the coming days".

His letter said the new contract would mean no junior doctor would be required to work more than 48 hours per week, with a new maximum of 72 hours per week. He said current contracts allow a maximum of more than 90 hours per week.

Last week the BMA announced that a ballot of its members for strike action would begin on 5 November, lasting two weeks.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jeremy Hunt said a "seven-day NHS" was a Conservative manifesto promise

Mr Hunt told the Commons: "We invited the BMA to negotiate a new contract so that we could end up with a solution that was right for doctors and right for patients.

"However, because we have just won an election and a seven-day NHS was a manifesto commitment in that election, we did say that having tried to negotiate this unsuccessfully for two-and-a-half years we would ask trusts to introduce new contracts if we were unable to succeed in negotiations."

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander told MPs: "I'm worried a new government-imposed employment contract will be unsafe for patients and unfair for doctors."

And Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the Health Select Committee, said: "What we must do is avoid a strike at all costs. A strike would be immensely damaging for patients."

Responding to the letter from Mr Hunt, Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA's junior doctor's committee chairman said: "It is encouraging that the health secretary has finally made a significant shift and recognised some of the concerns raised by junior doctors.

"However, it has taken the threat of industrial action and the sight of thousands of junior doctors taking to the streets to reach this point.

"The BMA has been quite clear that the government must withdraw the threat of imposition of new contracts on junior doctors, the extensive preconditions to negotiations the Department of Health keep insisting on and provide junior doctors with the assurances they are demanding before re-entering negotiations."

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