As the British Medical Association prepare to vote on industrial action Jeremy Hunt has sent a letter to young medical professionals, urging them to accept his concessions. Insisting that he cannot remove his “24/7 NHS” promise, that featured in the Conservative Party manifesto ahead of the May 2015 elections. – Words: Megan Townsend Subeditor: Corey Armishaw
Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has offered an 11% pay-rise in a letter written to 50,000 junior doctors across the country. In his letter, he made a number of concessions in order to avoid industrial action and potential strikes, which could be brought forward as the British Medical Association prepares to ballot members.
The Concessions in his letter also include a 25% cut in hours seen as “unsociable” and a 72 hour limit on the maximum working week (brought down from 91 hours in the initial contract proposal). The main aim of the new proposals had been to create a 7-day NHS, allowing those in work to still access GP services outside of working hours. His comments in July were met with criticism from young doctors – even launching the hashtag #iminworkjeremy on twitter.
— Rod Hammett (@HammettRod) July 18, 2015
Harriet Hall, a UCL medical student, has attended a number of recent protests surrounding the contract changes. As she considers her future in the industry, we asked her if she was more willing to accept the contract changes with Hunt’s proposals.
“No, because it would still affect women. If the contract goes through it will definitely have a big impact on my career. The contract will still remove fair compensation for antisocial hours, and penalise those who work less than full-time (LTFT) e.g. mothers, researchers. As someone who is very family orientated, I’m concerned that I won’t be able to afford to step off the conveyor belt of training to start a family.”
Dr Lucy Jane Davis, a mother and member of the BMA commented “Women who chose to be LTFT trainees stay juniors for a lot longer than their colleagues. The proposals will make the gender gap even more pronounced.”
We asked Harriet if she agreed with Dr Davis’s comments:
“With the current system, junior doctor pay rises each year, reflecting the experience they have gained in that time. Those working less than full time (e.g. women becoming mothers) obviously earn less than their full time counterparts, but their pay also increases year on year. The new contract changes this, so that trainees only go up the pay scale when they complete the next level of their training. This will disadvantage and deter women who want to take time out for maternity leave”
Jeremy Hunt has assured doctors that only 1% will lose out as the changes come into action, with many receiving quicker pay-rises and qualification. However those in the profession believe that whist this looks good on paper it may not properly represent reality.
Johann Malawana, the BMA’s leader for Junior Doctors talked to the BBC this morning, “Throughout the last month or so the government has had varying different percentages that they claim that they are going to increase basic pay by. And every time we have seen the detail of this, it’s unravelled.”
Medical boards in Scotland and Wales have decided not to make any contract changes, Northern Ireland have not yet made a decision but are expected to follow suit.