Junior doctors forced to accept new contract

Junior octors Lizzie Hobbs, Elaine Yip and Katherine Elliott on strike outside Queen's Hospital in R

Junior octors Lizzie Hobbs, Elaine Yip and Katherine Elliott on strike outside Queen's Hospital in Romford. - Credit: Archant

Junior doctors working for the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust will be forced to accept a new contract without agreement or further negotiation, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced.

The long dispute has seen doctors from King George Hospital, Goodmayes, and Queen’s Hospital, Romford, go on strike twice, in a dispute over the new terms.

In a statement to the House of Commons this morning, the health secretary said the decision was made after the British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union for doctors in the UK, proved “unwilling” to negotiate.

He said: “In such a situation, any government must do what is right for both patients and doctors.”

He criticised the strikes as “damaging” and highlighted the BMA’s refusal to negotiate on whether Saturday nights should become a normal part of a junior doctor’s working week.

Currently doctors receive a higher rate of pay when working outside of 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday.

The new deal will extend the “normal” working hours to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday.

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The announcement is a step towards the government’s aim of patients having access to doctors’ seven-days-a-week.

In an interview with the Post in December, Simon Fleming, 32, an orthopaedic registrar at BHRUT, said the change would mean his partner wouldn’t be able to go on maternity leave.

He said: “We’ve sat down and done the sums and if the changes come in, we will default on our mortgage.

“On top of that, we are not sure if we can afford maternity leave.

“These possible changes mean we’re discussing if we should delay having children, or possibly not have them.

“The hours also mean that family life would be difficult.

“In the past, I’ve gone two weeks without seeing my wife when our shifts haven’t matched up.”

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, described the decision as “fundamentally unfair”:

“The decision to impose a contract is a sign of total failure on the Government’s part.

“Instead of working with the BMA to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of patients, junior doctors and the NHS as a whole the government has walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer put forward by the BMA.

“Instead it wants to impose a flawed contract on a generation of junior doctors who have lost all trust in the Health Secretary.”