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03.02.16

Dalton couldn’t do it

Although the BMA only had praises to sing about Salford Royal’s Sir David Dalton last week (dumping all of its concerns over the junior doctor contract negotiations exclusively on the government), Dalton has not been as receptive to the union’s participation in talks.

In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Dalton, who was handpicked by the Department of Health to take discussions forward, said it was very disappointing that the union “continued to refuse to negotiate” on issues of unsocial hours payment.

He also criticised the union’s leaders for seeking a 20% rate of availability payment for non-resident on call, calling it “some two and a half times more than any other employed doctors receive”. The government is prepared to offer a 10% rate instead.

NHS England boss Simon Stevens said last week that if Dalton couldn’t seal the deal with junior doctors, no-one would be able to – and it seems like it may have come to that. In his letter, Dalton advised that if the contract is to be effectively implemented, agreement is required by no later than mid-February, just about the date when doctors are planning to strike.

“Should the BMA confirm that they will not negotiate and compromise on weekday and weekend plain time/unsocial hours then I will have to conclude that there is no opportunity for a negotiated settlement, and I would then need to advise you accordingly,” the Salford Royal chief told Hunt.

“Clearly trainee doctors are expressing a high level of discontent which has been fermenting for some years. Alongside the contract offer, I would also recommend that the government, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Health Education England and NHS Employers commission a review of these longer-standing concerns with recommendations to all parties for action which can improve the welfare and morale of trainees.”

Though most of the dispute’s sticking points have been resolved, Dalton told the health secretary that issues still remain around pay, particularly salary linked to unsocial hours. Dalton has been able to scale back the thresholds for the start of premium pay for unsocial hours during the week (10pm to 9pm) and on Saturdays (7pm to 5pm), but the BMA “disappointingly restated that they will not negotiate on this issue”.

(Top image c. MAHSC)

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