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04.02.16

Dalton writes to junior doctors in last-ditch effort to avert strike

As junior doctors prepare to strike again next week in protest at proposed contract changes to working hours, Sir David Dalton has written to all 45,000 trainee doctors involved, making a personal appeal to avoid another walkout.

 Sir David, chief executive of the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, was appointed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to negotiate with junior doctors, but his efforts fell through after the BMA confirmed on Monday that it will go ahead with a 24-hour walkout in all areas except emergency care from 8am on 10 February.

 Yesterday, Sir David wrote to Hunt saying it was disappointing that the BMA “continued to refuse to negotiate” on the issue of unsocial hours payment, and in his letter to BMA members he again chides the BMA for refusing to cooperate.

He writes: “It is clear that what is needed is a commitment on both sides to continue to talk on the key remaining issues and to find the room for settlement. Failure to do this will mean that no agreement can be reached. This would be sad in any circumstances but particularly so when there has been so much progress in the last month.

“It is really disheartening that at the end of last week the BMA declined an invitation to talk about the key outstanding issues (ie unsocial hours definition and associated payments), and have so far stated that they are unwilling to negotiate and reconsider these points at all.”

Junior doctors’ standard working hours are currently from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, but under the proposed contract, they would work until 10pm on weekdays and Saturdays from 7am to 10pm would be classified as ‘plain time’, meaning they wouldn’t earn antisocial hours payments.

The talks have stalled over the BMA’s refusal to accept basic pay for any time on Saturdays.

Sir David is known for giving doctors a key role in running Salford Royal, which has one of the highest staff satisfaction rates in the NHS.

Last week NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “If [Dalton] is unable to get a fair agreement with the BMA that works for both sides, it’s not obvious that anyone can.”

Sir David’s letter adds: “I came into these negotiations with a clear view – that the contract should be safe and fair for trainee doctors and effective and affordable for the NHS. I have served the NHS for over 36 years and hold firm to its values. You can be assured that I would never act in a way which compromised those values and that I strive to treat all staff in a fair and reasonable way.”

He tells the junior doctors that “given the high level of unhappiness” among them, he has advised Hunt that the Department of Health, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (which represents all of the UK’s 250,000 doctors professionally), Health Education England and NHS Employers should “commission a review of the long-standing concerns, with recommendations to all parties for action which can improve the welfare and morale of trainees.”

He concludes the letter by saying: “I sincerely hope, for the sake of our patients, that we can find a way to move forward and quickly resolve our differences.”

(Top image c. Steve Eason)

Comments

Mark Butler   04/02/2016 at 18:31

The BMA is doing what it should be doing, representing its members. The contract is unsafe and it is unfair, junior doctors know this and overwhelming reject the proposals made. Junior Doctors are overworked and demoralised,they provide the vast majority of emergency medical cover 24/7/365 and are asking only for very reasonable safeguards and remuneration.

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