My wife is a junior doctor herself, so I am acutely aware of the strength of feeling surrounding this issue. I also contributed to a recent House of Commons debate on contract reform, and you might be interested to read my speech via the following link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151028/debtext/151028-0004.htm#15102846001513
I completely agree that junior doctors work extremely hard, seven days a week, and play a vital role in our NHS. I know that the Government also has the utmost respect for the outstanding contribution made by this pivotal part of the NHS workforce.
Reform of the junior doctors’ contract is, however, vital for improving patient safety, properly rewarding NHS staff, ensuring safer working hours and delivering a 7-day NHS. This is absolutely not a cost-cutting exercise and these changes will be cost neutral.
The average pay of a junior doctor will not be cut. The Government instead plans to end unfairness by linking increases to progression through the training grades and levels of responsibility, not time served. Indeed, the Health Secretary has confirmed that junior doctors will receive an approximate 11 per cent increase to basic pay.
The Health Secretary has also guaranteed that this new contract will not impose longer hours. The current contract incentivises long, unsafe hours. Under the new proposals, no junior doctor working full time will be expected to work on average more than 48 hours a week. There will be new limits on the number of nights and long shifts worked, as well as an absolute limit on hours worked in any single week.
The proposed contract will involve some increase in plain time working and a replacement of the banding system, with additional pay for unsocial hours. Nights and Sundays will continue to attract unsocial hours’ payments. I am encouraged that the Health Secretary is prepared to discuss in negotiations how far plain time working extends on Saturdays and consider protection for doctors who may lose out financially. He has also committed to improving support for junior doctors by ensuring better consultant cover and reforming the training experience.
The Health Secretary has published the details of the new junior doctors’ contract, and you may be interested to read more about them here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/junior-doctors-contract-offer-main-points/junior-doctors-contract-offer-main-points