Junior doctors contracts: BMA being misleading – Hunt
17 October 2015
- From the section Health
The health secretary has accused the doctors’ union of misleading junior doctors over changes to their contracts in England ahead of a rally later.
Doctors are expected to march in protest at the changes which they say will lead to a drop in their salaries.
Jeremy Hunt said the proposals would benefit doctors by reducing their maximum weekly working hours.
The BMA denied it had misled its members and said the rally in London would be a wake-up call for ministers.
The government has indicated it will impose the new contract next year in England. Scotland and Wales have both said they will be sticking to the old contract, while Northern Ireland has yet to make a decision.
By Hugh Pym, BBC health editor
There seems little readiness on the part of the BMA to return to the talks which had run for two years up until the autumn of 2014, given its suspicions of the government’s intentions.
The question is how ministers will respond to the weekend’s protests and the BMA’s continuing planning for a ballot of members on industrial action.
There is a sense that Mr Hunt’s patience is wearing a little thin. His latest interview is in effect an attempt to sidestep the BMA and appeal to the wider body of junior doctors in England.
Mr Hunt told the BBC: “I think it is incredibly disappointing, the way that the BMA has misrepresented the government’s position.
“It’s caused a huge amount of anger unnecessarily; we don’t want to cut the pay going to junior doctors, we do want to change the pay structures that force hospitals to roster three times less medical cover at weekends as they do in weeks and that means that there’s a 15% greater chance of you dying if you are admitted on a Sunday, compared to being admitted on a Wednesday.”
He said he was willing to negotiate over safeguards.
Mr Hunt said changes to contracts would improve patient care, which was what doctors wanted.
He added: “This is a good deal for doctors. We are reducing the maximum hours a doctor can be asked to work from 91 to 72 hours, we’re stopping doctors being asked to work for five nights in a row.”
He called on the British Medical Association (BMA) to go back to the negotiating table.
The BMA is demanding that the government withdraw its threat to impose the new contract in England from next year.
Dr Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said Mr Hunt needed to listen not just to the BMA but to junior doctors up and down the country.
“The fact is we want a contract that is safe for doctors in terms of maintaining safe, clinical care and delivers a safe NHS for patients,” he said.
Commenting ahead of the rally in central London, Dr Malawana said the gathering would be “a wake-up call for ministers”.
“The health secretary has accused junior doctors of misleading the public over the impact of his changes, yet at the same time he continues to conflate junior doctors’ legitimate concerns and the government’s rhetoric on seven-day services.
“The truth is that the junior doctor contract is in no way a barrier to seven-day services, with the vast majority of junior doctors routinely providing care to patients 24/7.”
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