Hunt launches junior doctor charm offensive, offers pay rise

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to 50,000 junior doctors in England outlining plans he says would lead to basic pay increasing by 11%, in an attempt to head of the threat of industrial action. However Hunt has indicated that he also wants to curb other elements such as guaranteed pay rises. Previous attempts to renegotiate a contract for junior doctors had lead to outrage after the junior health workers felt that they would be forced to work more hours for less money.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has not seen the proposals, but the organisation is preparing to send ballot papers out on Thursday ahead of possible industrial action. The Health Secretary says just 1% of NHS junior doctors would lose out under the new plans and instead the proposed rise to basic pay would see a new doctors’ salary rise from £22,636 to £25,500

But guaranteed annual pay rises are being scrapped and instead pay will be directly linked to progress through dedicated training stages. Other elements of their pay package are also being cut.

The Department of Health will now hope that the BMA will return to the negotiating table, but so far they have shown no indication that they wish to do this.

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  1. According to the BMA’s spokesman, it’s not a pay rise, it’s a reallocation of money being paid elsewhere. Junior doctors are concerned that there will be no safeguards against Trust’s abusing working hours. Currently a 12-hour day Mon-Friday sees many working unpaid over those hours. The new proposals mean a 15-hour day Mon-Sat and any ‘extra’ money paid only on a Sunday; there is however no ‘guard’ under the new proposals to prevent Trusts obligating junior doctors to work longer hours than the 15 hours a day the proposed contract demands – simply because hospitals have insufficient numbers of junior doctors to cover all that is needed. It goes beyond salary however; if a doctor changes specialism, or takes time out in a research capacity, or to have a child, they will not be able to re-enter the workplace with the seniority they once had. They will be reduced to starting at the bottom of the career ladder again. This is a massive disincentive to many, women in particular, who have to balance career with family. Remember that it takes 7 years to train a junior doctor before they even begin a specialism, so losing newly qualified doctors from August 2016 onwards will have a huge affect on NHS capacity to treat patients immediately and into the future.

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