Jeremy Hunt gives 'categorical assurance' not to cut junior doctor or GP trainee pay

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to the BMA after a meeting with its junior doctors committee chairman, pledging not to slash overall spending on junior doctor pay and calling for renewed talks.

Jeremy Hunt: GP trainees will not be disadvantaged by junior doctor contract deal
Jeremy Hunt: GP trainees will not be disadvantaged by junior doctor contract deal

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the statement, but warned the college would 'continue to push for clarification' on how the government's junior doctor pay proposals would work.

The health secretary's letter is the second attempt by his department to defuse the ongoing row over the junior doctors contract, after a breakdown in talks saw BMA begin moves to ballot the profession over industrial action.

GP leaders remain concerned that GP trainee pay could be slashed by almost a third under a deal the government plans to impose from April 2016.

But Mr Hunt's letter says the government's approach to the junior doctors deal is 'not a cost cutting exercise'.

'I can give you a categorical assurance that I am not seeking to save any money from the junior doctors’ paybill,' the health secretary wrote. 'While I want to see an end to automatic annual increments (with pay rises instead based on moving through the stages of training and taking on more responsibility), these changes would be cost neutral, rather than cost saving. This will mean that junior doctors would still benefit from four or five progression pay rises as they move through training.'

GP trainee pay

The letter makes clear that GP trainees 'will not be disadvantaged compared with the current system'.

'I can give an absolute guarantee that average pay for juniors will not reduce,' Mr Hunt wrote. 'I have already given my assurances that GP trainees will not be disadvantaged compared with the current system. I can also say that it is our intention that flexible pay premia would be used to support recruitment into shortage specialties such as A&E medicine and general practice. We would also include pay protection for doctors who change to shortage specialities and to support agreed academic work.'

As part of a move to adapt the deal to plans for seven-day NHS services, junior doctor pay would continue to include unsocial hours payments for Sundays and evening work, the letter confirms.

'I can give an absolute guarantee to junior doctors that this contract will not impose longer hours,' the letter adds. 'No junior doctor working full time will be expected to work on average more than 48 hours a week.'

Dr Baker said: 'We welcome this statement by the health secretary to clarify the situation on the junior doctors contract and hope that it will help to unblock the current impasse.

'We are pleased that he has listened to our concerns, particularly around GP recruitment with the inclusion of pay protection for doctors who change to shortage specialties such as general practice.

'We will continue to push for clarification on how these proposals will work - and will hold Mr Hunt to account to ensure that his promises are delivered.'

Read the full letter here

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