Junior doctors will realise contract imposition was right, says Jeremy Hunt

Junior doctors will realise the government 'was right' to impose a new contract after the collapse of negotiations with the BMA, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told MPs.

The health secretary was challenged in parliament over the government's decision to impose the contract, and over his failure to restart talks with the BMA.

Mr Hunt told MPs he was still finalising terms and conditions of the imposed deal, which he believed was 'fair and better for patients'. 'I am still reviewing the exact terms alongside the equality impact assessment,' he said. 'Finalised terms will be published shortly.'

The health secretary also urged the BMA to engage with an independent review commissioned by the government into low morale among junior doctors and their experience of NHS training.

Junior doctor contract

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire, SNP) asked how the government planned to enforce the junior doctor contract across England when foundation trusts are free to offer their own terms and conditions, and highlighted suggestions that despite DH claims that senior NHS figures backed the deal, many later distanced themselves from it.

Mr Hunt said: 'The fact is that we consulted widely with NHS leaders about the terms of the new contract and they confirmed that it was fair and reasonable. Any decision to proceed with a new contract when it is not possible to have a negotiated settlement is inevitably controversial.

'We wanted to make sure that the terms of the new contract were things that independent people thought were fair. And I think we have done that, and I think that when junior doctors actually see their new contract, which they will do shortly, they will realise that we were right to do so.'

NHS crisis

Dr Phillippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire, SNP) told the House of Commons: 'The secretary of state said that he was imposing the contract to bring stability to the NHS. That hasn’t exactly gone well. What is his plan to re-establish his relationship with junior doctors and get us back out of where we are now?'

Mr Hunt responded: 'We are trying to solve a problem that in Scotland is being ducked. We want a seven-day NHS with mortality rates that are no higher at weekends. In the interests of patient safety we do need to take difficult decisions - in the end doctors will see this was the right thing for them as well.'

Mt Hunt added that the review of junior doctor morale and training by Professor Dame Sue Bailey was a 'big opportunity' to resolve key issues for the NHS, and urged the BMA to get involved. 'We would like to see if we can restore some of the things that have gone in the wrong direction. We have not yet had the co-operation of the BMA in doing this review - we hope they will because it is a big opportunity to sort out some outstanding problems.'

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