Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has offered assurances that the vast majority of junior doctors won’t be adversely affected by the government’s new contracts. There have been huge fears that junior medics’ salaries could soon be cut by up to 30 per cent, with medics also threatening strike action. However, Hunt says there’s nothing to worry about.
That said, he does admit that ‘a small minority’ of doctors will end up losing out, due to the government cracking down on so-called ‘danger money’. Some junior doctors pick up extra cash by working outside their legal hours, which Hunt says is dangerous for both medics and patients.
“There’s a very small minority of doctors who will be working more than an average of 56 hours and at the moment they get paid what’s called colloquially in the NHS ‘danger money’,” he said. “We think that’s wrong. Actually, we shouldn’t be allowing that to happen. It’s not safe for patients and, frankly, I’m not sure it’s safe for doctors either. But what we are saying is that for the vast majority of doctors who are working within the legal limit there will be no pay cut. We’ll make sure that happens.”
He’s offered the British Medical Association (BMA) a ‘firm guarantee’ doctors would not see their salaries cut, however, the BMA is holding out for further assurances before ruling out strike action.
Under the terms of the new contract, normal work hours for junior doctors would be extended to 7am-10pm each day apart from Sunday. Currently, junior doctors are paid extra for working outside normal hours, which stand at 7am-7pm on weekdays. Hunt, however, says that no junior doctor will be required to work more than 48 hours per week, with a new maximum cap of 72 hours per week imposed. Earlier this week, we spoke to Dr Magnus Harrison, who talked us through the NHS' tough-looking, hi-tech future. [Guardian]