I know that junior doctors already work seven days a week and play a vital role in our NHS. I am aware that the Government has the utmost respect for the outstanding contribution made by this pivotal part of the NHS workforce.
Reform of the junior doctors’ contract is vital for improving patient safety, properly rewarding NHS staff, ensuring safer working hours and delivering a 7-day NHS. I hope the BMA will return to the negotiating table.
This is absolutely not a cost-cutting exercise for the Government and these changes will be cost neutral. The average pay of a junior doctor will not be cut and it is totally irresponsible of the BMA to claim otherwise.
The Health Secretary has given an absolute guarantee that this new contract will not impose longer hours for junior doctors. The current contract incentivises long, unsafe hours. Under the new proposals, no junior doctor working full time will be expected to work on average more than 48 hours a week and there will be new limits on the number of nights and long shifts worked, as well as an absolute limit on how many hours are worked in any single week.
The proposed contract will involve some increase in plain time working and a replacement of the banding system, with additional pay for unsocial hours. Nights and Sundays will continue to attract unsocial hours’ payments. I am encouraged that the Health Secretary is prepared to negotiate how far plain time working extends on Saturdays.
The Government also plans to end the unfairness in pay progression by linking increases to achievement, not time served. Success will be properly rewarded as pay rises will be properly linked to progression through the training grades and levels of responsibility. At the same time, doctors that take time out of training will continue to be entitled to twelve months maternity leave and the existing maternity payments.
Please be assured that the Government has given an absolute guarantee that the average pay for junior doctors will not reduce. I know that NHS Employers is developing the new contract to ensure that the great majority of junior doctors are at least as well paid as they would be now. The Government is also willing to consider such protection for doctors who may lose out financially and has committed to improving support for junior doctors by ensuring better consultant cover and reforming the training experience.
You may be interested to know that the Health Secretary has recently written to the Chair of the Junior Doctors Committee of the BMA further outlining this, which can be found here:
I hope this makes clear that the Government wishes to negotiate with junior doctors in order to develop a new contract that is better for both doctors and patients.