No plans to cut junior doctor pay, says Hunt

8 Oct 15

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted that the government has no plans to cut the overall pay bill for junior doctors under the terms of a new contract he is looking to negotiate with the British Medical Association.

In a letter to Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, Hunt said the “great majority” of trainee doctors would be at least as well paid as they are now.

The government is proposing a series of changes to contracts for doctors, which also include a new deal for general practice, as part of efforts to improve NHS provision at evenings and weekends.

The BMA has called for the Department of Health to give some “concrete assurances” before it re-entered negotiations. These included proper recognition of unsocial hours as premium time, and no disadvantage for those working antisocial hours compared to the current system or those working less than full time.

In his letter, Hunt said he wanted to set out a “categorical assurance” that he was not seeking to save any money from the junior doctors’ pay bill.

“Whilst I want to see an end to automatic annual increments (with pay rises instead based on moving through the stages of training and taking on more responsibility), these changes would be cost neutral, rather than cost saving,” he stated.

“This will mean that junior doctors would still benefit from four or five progression pay rises as they move through training.”

He said he had asked NHS Employers to develop the details of a contract with an “absolute guarantee” that average pay for juniors would not be reduced.

“I have already given my assurances that GP trainees will not be disadvantaged compared with the current system. I can also say that it is our intention that flexible pay premia would be used to support recruitment into shortage specialties such as accident and emergency medicine and general practice. We would also include pay protection for doctors who change to shortage specialties and to support agreed academic work.”

He called on the BMA to return to negotiations in good faith. “The negotiations on the new contract began on the basis of a shared view between the BMA and employers that the current contract had served its purpose and needed reform.

“The best deal for junior doctors will be achieved by the BMA coming to the table to negotiate on their behalf and I urge you now to do this.”

Responding to the letter, Malawana said: “It is encouraging that the health secretary has finally recognised the vital role that junior doctors play as tomorrow’s leaders across the NHS. However, questions still remain and we are urgently seeking clarification on the points raised in the letter.”

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