Junior Doctor Contracts

I am only too aware of how strongly junior doctors feel about the proposed changes to their contracts, including a number who are my constituents.  The Government’s approach has been completely wrong and ministers should work with the BMA and junior doctors to find a fair agreement that avoids the threat of industrial action.  Junior doctors are vital to the future of the NHS and it is clear that, if we want to move toward a seven-day NHS and improved patient care, we need to ensure that the staff we rely on are supported and valued.

It is deeply concerning that the BMA have described the contract as ‘unsafe and unfair’ and that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have stated that this could ‘adversely affect recruitment, retention and the morale’ of junior doctors.  I fear that, rather than addressing the real strains our NHS is currently facing, the Government are punishing staff for their own financial mismanagement of the NHS.

As you may be aware, the Health Secretary recently revised the contract by announcing an 11% rise in basic pay. However, the BMA has stated that the offer is misleading as it was offset by curbs to other elements of the pay package, including unsociable hours’ payments and the absence of safeguards to stop hospitals over-working doctors.  I am concerned that the Health Secretary did not consult with the BMA regarding the changes, meaning junior doctors were left to find out about the revised contract via the media.

Although returning from Jordan that day, I supported the Opposition motion on 28th October which urged the Government to guarantee that no junior doctor will have their pay cut as a result of a new contract and calling on the Government to put forward proposals which are safe for patients and fair for junior doctors and return to negotiations with the BMA. 

The BMA began balloting its members for strike action on Thursday 5th November and the ballot ends on Wednesday 18th November.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central and
Shadow Foreign Secretary

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