As expected, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that a new contract will be imposed on junior doctors from August 1, after years of negations failed to reach a resolution.
Taking “a decisive step forward to help deliver our manifesto commitment,” Hunt said the new contract will give junior doctors a 13.5% rise in basic pay, up from the 11% previously on the table, and a 30% pay premium for doctors working one saturday in every four.
The maximum number of hours that any doctor can work in any week will be reduced from 91 to 71 and the maximum number of consecutive nights from seven to four, while Hunt also confirmed a new guardian role in every trust authorised to issue fines for breaching these conditions.
The British Medical Association has slammed the move. “The decision to impose a contract is a sign of total failure on the government’s part,” said junior doctor committee chair Johann Malawana.
“Instead of working with the BMA to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of patients, junior doctors and the NHS as a whole the government has walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer put forward by the BMA. Instead it wants to impose a flawed contract on a generation of junior doctors who have lost all trust in the Health Secretary”.
“If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it. Rather than addressing these issues, the Health Secretary is ploughing ahead with proposals that are fundamentally unfair,” he stressed.
The move has fuelled fears of more strikes by junior doctors in the months ahead - potentially even including those working in A&E - over a dispute that has the potential to cripple the NHS.
BMA 'considering options'
“Our message to the Government is clear: junior doctors cannot and will not accept a contract that is bad for the future of patient care, the profession and the NHS as a whole, and we will consider all options open to us,” warned Malawana.
Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said she is “shocked and dismayed” by the government’s decision.
“The imposition of the contract will undoubtedly impair our efforts to recruit thousands of additional doctors into the NHS over the coming years in order to keep the health service sustainable - as many medical students are seeing this turmoil, not liking what they see, and turning away from medicine in the UK altogether”.
Johnny Marshall, director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, also expressed disappointment at the failure to find resolution, warning: "An engaged clinical workforce is critical for the NHS to deliver the best care to patients."