The Health Secretary has given guarantees that a new contract will not lower pay while increasing working hours

The Health Secretary has given guarantees that a new contract will not lower pay while increasing working hours

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has guaranteed not to increase junior doctor working hours, in an attempt to head of strike action. A proposed new contract had prompted anger by suggesting that junior doctors would have to take a pay cut while agreeing to work on Saturdays.

Hunt wrote to Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the British Medical Association junior doctor committee (JDC), and gave ‘absolute guarantees’ that working hours would not be extended to include up 10pm on a Saturday.

“No junior doctor working full time will be expected to work on average more than 48 hours a week. I want to see a work review system with teeth that ensures that juniors are not exploited and that addresses issues of overworking if they arise,” Hunt said in his letter to the JDC.

Junior doctors were expected to lose great chunks of their income if the contract had been approved in its proposed form. Hunt in his letter insists this will not be the case: “I have asked NHS Employers to develop the details of the new contract to ensure that the great majority of junior doctors are at least as well paid as they would be now,” the health secretary writes.

The BMA and doctors unions have not yet responded to Hunt’s letter. The JDC had taken a vote on the 26th of September to ballot its membership on potential strike action.