I support the Health Secretary and his plans for a seven-day NHS. I know junior doctors already work seven days a week – doing a fantastic job delivering excellent care for patients – and the Government's reforms are intended to build on this by properly rewarding, not penalising, NHS staff, ensuring safer working hours and delivering a truly seven-day health service. I know that's what doctors want too, so it is extremely disappointing that the BMA chose unnecessary industrial action, which helps no one, in place of negotiation.
The new contract includes the following measures;
- An increase in pay of around 10% for 75% of doctors – and everyone working within legal hours will have their pay protected;
- Better rostering of doctors, to end the current situation of hospitals rostering three times less medical cover at weekends compared to weekdays;
- Cutting the maximum working week from 91 hours to 72 hours;
- The introduction of a new maximum shift pattern of 4 night shifts or 5 long day shifts - compared to the current contract which permits 7 consecutive night shifts or 12 consecutive long day shifts;
- Greater flexibility on rotas so that junior doctors no longer have to miss special occasions due to inflexible rostering;
- A new ‘Guardian role’ to ensure junior doctors aren’t overworked;
- Improved training of junior doctors
I believe further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations. It is my understanding that progress has been made on many different points of discussion, and agreement has been secured with the BMA on approximately 90 per cent of them. Sadly, despite this progress and willingness from the Government to be flexible on the issue of Saturday pay, the leader of the negotiating team, Sir David Dalton, has advised the Government that a negotiated solution is not realistically possible. This is exceedingly disheartening for all concerned.
Sir David has asked that the Government now proceed with the introduction of a new contract in order to end the uncertainty for the service. The Government has reluctantly accepted this advice as we cannot continue with a system whereby patients admitted at weekends are more likely to die than those admitted during the week.
We urgently need a system that is safer for patients and safer for doctors by ensuring they receive the support they need.