I fully appreciate the concerns of those who have contacted me on this matter. Late last year I met with a group of local doctors and other health professionals to discuss NHS reform, including the implementation of a new junior doctor contract. We had a productive discussion and I raised their concerns with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP. The Secretary of State for Health assured me that he was listening and that the Government recognised the vital role that junior doctors play in our NHS.
The agreement on the new contract for junior doctors, following 10 intense days of talks, demonstrates that he was. The Secretary of State for Health has throughout negotiations endeavoured to do the best for patients and doctors. I am glad that the BMA came back to the table to negotiate a contract that would achieve just that. The new contract will improve safety, reduce unfairness and pave the way for the NHS to deliver a seven-day service. It will be better for patients, better for doctors and better for our NHS.
The consequences of eight days of industrial action to patients was startling, with over 125,000 operations cancelled, and it should now be clear that only through cooperation can we develop a better NHS. The Government will be invited to be part of a new 7-day services forum to ensure staff play a key role in the rolling out of a truly 7 day NHS and I hope junior doctors embrace this and finally recognise that the Secretary of State for Health is on the side of the NHS.
The new contract is fundamentally better for patients. No longer will patient care suffer as a result of the day on which they go to hospital over which they have no control. Now, the NHS will be shaped around the needs of the patient and the new contract will ensure the same standard of care everyday.
With guarantees of better training, safety and working conditions, it is a contract that will benefit junior doctors. Doctors will now receive a substantial basic pay rise of around 10-11% for those working legal hours and on the weekends, which will be paid at plain time for the first time, an additional payment of 10% on basic pay for those working one weekend in two. With the establishment of the family support package, the new contract will also help junior doctors balance their home life with work, including joint training placements for couples and a catch-up programme for those who take time out of training. It is clear this is a contract for junior doctors.
The NHS will benefit too. For the first time, junior doctors pay will be properly linked with their progression and level of responsibility, it scraps incentives for long and unsafe hours, it helps tackle locum costs and it supports hospitals to deliver truly 7 Day services. This fundamental shift in the way doctors are paid on Saturday and Sunday will mean it is a third less expensive for hospitals to roster doctors over the weekend, enabling the same high standards of care at affordable rates.
The new contract will be put to eligible BMA members, supported and endorsed by Dr Johann Malawana as "a good deal for junior doctors [that] will ensure that they continue to deliver high-quality for patients" and I hope that it will also be supported by the profession as a whole. To view details of the Government's firm offer to junior doctors, please visit this web page:
Throughout the process, I have endeavoured to monitor the issue closely and I have represented the views of all those who have written to me.