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18.05.16

Junior doctors and government reach agreement

Junior doctors and the government have reached an agreement on a new contract, subject to approval from British Medical Association (BMA) members in a referendum.

Junior doctors will now vote on the deal, which was agreed over ten days of negotiations following a series of strikes.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said: “Following intense but constructive talks, we are pleased to have reached agreement.

“Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.

“I believe that what has been agreed today delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high-quality care for patients.

“This represents the best and final way of resolving the dispute and this is what I will be saying to junior doctors in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the new contract.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “We welcome this significant agreement which delivers important changes to the junior doctors’ contract necessary to deliver a safer seven-day NHS.

“The talks have been constructive and positive and highlighted many areas outside the contract where further work is necessary to value the vital role of junior doctors and improve the training and support they are given. This deal represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors, and for the NHS as a whole.”

Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “A way forward in this dispute was needed, both for the wider NHS and the patients we care for every day. We now await the outcome of the ballot of junior doctors on this proposal and hope for early resolution.

“As we have said many times before, the RCP believes that negotiations are the best way to see this dispute resolved, therefore it is welcome news that both sides have managed to reach an agreed joint proposal on the outstanding points of contention.”

19 May UPDATE

Outline details of the new junior doctors’ agreement have been published by Acas, which chaired the negotiations between the BMA and the government.

Under the new agreement, junior doctors will be paid an enhanced pay rate of 37% for any shift which starts at or after 8pm, lasts more than 8 hours and finishes at or by 10am the following day.

They will also receive a weekend allowance when they are rostered to work more than six weekends in a year, and an 8% pay supplement for weekends when they are on call.

Overall, the contract should offer junior doctors a pay increase of 10% - 11%, a 46 hour rest period after completing up to four night shifts, and the requirement not to work more frequently than one in two weekends.

In a speech to the House of Commons today, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “a matter of great regret” that strikes were needed to reach the “landmark” contract.

He added: “Our priority will always be the safety of patients but we also recognise that to deliver high quality care we need a well-motivated and happy junior doctor workforce.”

The contract also contains commitments to increase reports from the Guardian of Safe Working to every quarter, increase fines for trusts breaking safe working hours, and “develop innovative approaches to training” to mitigate concerns about the impact of the contract on women doctors and doctors with disabilities.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, called on junior doctors to “vote positively and accept the new agreement”.

She said: “The NHS can now put this dispute behind it and move ahead with giving patients the high standard of care that they deserve.”

(Image c. Frank Augstein from PA Images)

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