Jeremy Hunt will hold direct talks with doctors union the British Medical Association (BMA) in a last ditch attempt to avert possible strike action.
Junior doctors are being balloted for industrial action after the Government said it would impose a new contract that could see some taking a significant pay cut. Doctors have also warned the new contract will lead to them being over-worked, putting patient care at risk.
The Health Secretary has invited the newly-elected chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, Dr Johann Malawana to discuss the proposed changes to the contract.
In response to the surprise move NHS Employers, the arms-length body charged with negotiating new contracts with doctors, has postponed a series of town hall-style meetings scheduled to begin this week, at which juniors around the country were to be invited to have their say.
The BMA said it was disappointed the meetings had been cancelled, but confirmed that Dr Malawana would meet Mr Hunt later this week. Since the decision to ballot was made on Saturday, around 2,000 more doctors are understood to have signed up as BMA members.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said that “a great deal” of contract issues remained up for discussion, including one of most controversial proposals, which would see ordinary working hours – those for which doctors receive no extra pay – reclassified to include weekday evenings and Saturdays.
In a statement Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, urged all doctors to support juniors, calling the dispute “a generational moment for the medical profession”.
“The threat to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England goes beyond one country or one branch of practice – it’s an attack on the values we all cherish,” he said. Scotland and Wales have move rejected the new contract proposals, which have attracted widespread criticism from all parts of the medical profession.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes and chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, also voiced concern, saying the Government seemed “bent on a disruptive fight with the BMA”, and revealing that her own daughter was one of hundreds of junior doctors who have left to work in Australia in recent years.
“She, her husband and eight of their friends are now working in a hospital where they have yet to meet an Australian junior doctor in the casualty department. It is staffed almost entirely by British-trained junior doctors,” she said.
The Independent revealed last week that, following the Government’s decision to impose a contract, more than 1,600 doctors had applied for paperwork required to work abroad in the space of just three days.Reuse content