Sir: Dr S A Wajed (letter, 3 December) confuses the limits of hours of duty with hours actually worked. The New Deal sets a maximum of 72 hours of duty per week. The 56-hour limit applies to the actual hours of "on your feet" work.
He states that the views of the Junior Doctors Committee are not shared by the majority of junior doctors. That is not borne out by the increased numbers of juniors who have become members of the British Medical Association since the New Deal was agreed (69 per cent of all juniors in 1992, rising to 82 per cent this year).
We would accept that in some hospitals the workload while on-call has increased as a consequence of changing work practices and we have been able to negotiate an agreement with the Department of Health that allows doctors working onerous on-call rotas to be transferred to flexible shift patterns with higher rates of overtime pay.
It is absolutely incorrect that the reduction in hours has resulted in reduction of pay. Juniors used to receive 30-38 per cent of their basic salary for overtime hours. This has now increased to between 50 and 100 per cent of basic salary as an integral part of the New Deal which would not have been achieved without the reduction in hours. Consequently, juniors received the biggest real increase in pay since 1973.
The New Deal replaced arduous and inhumane working conditions with juniors working upwards of 90 hours per week. To go back to such appalling arrangements would be to the detriment of all juniors' health, training and family life, to say nothing of the more important issue of patient safety.
Dr PETER BENNIE.
Junior Doctors Committee
British Medical Association
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