Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has assured West Cornwall MP, Derek Thomas, that the new Junior Doctors' Contract is good for doctors and the right thing for the NHS.
In a written response following a meeting with Derek Thomas MP, the Health Secretary has defended the proposed new contract and sought to allay concerns regarding the new terms and conditions of the contract. In his letter to Mr Thomas MP, the a Health Secretary writes:
1. This is not a cost cutting exercise. We are not seeking to save a penny from the junior doctors’ paybill.
2. I want the new contract to improve patient safety by better supporting a seven day NHS. For junior doctors, this means some increase in hours which aren’t payable as overtime, but backed up with a significant increase in basic pay. We will still pay staff for antisocial hours, junior doctors will get the same pay on average, and we want to discuss from when on a Saturday overtime is payable.
3. I believe that our ambition for the NHS to be the safest health care system in the world is underpinned by reducing, not increasing, the number of hours junior doctors work each week. Junior doctors already work seven days and are the backbone of medical care in hospitals at weekends and at night. There is no question that this contract will impose longer hours. No junior doctor working full time will be expected to work on average more than 48 hours a week, and I want to improve training and ensure better clinical supervision from senior consultants as well.
4. I have asked that the details of the new contract ensure that the great majority of junior doctors are at least as well paid as they would be now. I can give an absolute guarantee that average pay for juniors will not reduce. I have already given the BMA my assurances there will be pay protection for doctors who change to shortage specialities and to support agreed academic work.
The negotiations on the new contract began on the basis of a shared view between the BMA and the Government that the current contract had served its purpose and needed reform. In fact, the BMA accepted that point as far back as 2007.
We are absolutely clear that – as well as being better for patients – this is a fairer deal for doctors. It will introduce new absolute limits on the number of extra hours juniors can work – from 91 to 72 hours in a week, abolishes the ‘week of nights’ that many junior doctors experience under the current contract, brings in a limit on the number of long days that can be worked consecutively, and better rewards pay progression based on achievement and experience.
Secretary of State for Health
Derek first raised his concern about negotiations over the new contracts in the summer following a number of constituents contacting him regarding the issue.
Mr Thomas said 'I met with Jeremy Hunt as I was concerned about the very public nature of negotiations of the junior doctor contracts and I am particularly concerned that if relations between the Government and junior doctors are damaged further the net result will be more and more doctors will choose to work overseas. Jeremy Hunt clearly understands this and assured me that he is doing everything he can to address the concerns of junior doctors.'
Member of Parliament for St Ives