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Contract will be imposed on junior doctors following rejection referendum

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will impose a contract on junior doctors across England.

It comes the day after junior doctors and medical students voted to reject a deal between the BMA and the Government.

Hunt told MPs it had been a ‘difficult decision’ to take but the NHS needed certainty, including in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Representative bodies for the medical profession were all calling for further talks and a negotiated settlement, fearful of further industrial action.

In a Commons statement, Mr Hunt said: “In May, the Government and NHS Employers reached an historic agreement with the BMA on a new contract for junior doctors after three years of negotiations and several days of damaging strike action.

“Unfortunately because of the vote we are now left in a no-man’s land that, if it continues, can only damage the NHS. An elected government whose main aim is to improve the safety and quality of care for patients has come up against a union which has stirred up anger amongst its own members it is now unable to pacify.

“I was not a fan of the tactics used by the BMA but to its credit their leader Dr Malawana did in the end negotiate a deal and work hard to get support for it. Now he has resigned it is not clear that there is anyone able to deliver the support of BMA members for any negotiated settlement.

“Protracted uncertainty at precisely the time we grapple with the enormous consequences of leaving the EU can only be damaging for those working in the NHS and the patients who depend on it.”

The contract will be incrementally implemented from this August.

Junior doctors hold grave concerns over the scheduling and payment of weekend working, and the lack of additional resource for seven-day working.

Dr Ellen McCourt, the BMA’s junior doctors committee chair, responded: “It is extremely disappointing that the government is pushing ahead with the introduction of a contract that has been rejected by a majority of junior doctors.

“Good progress had been made in recent months and I believe agreeing a contract in which junior doctors have confidence is still the best way forward.

“By choosing this route rather than building on progress made and addressing the outstanding issues which led to a rejection of the contract by many junior doctors, the Government is simply storing up problems for the future.

“A new contract will affect a generation of doctors and impact on the delivery of patient care. It needs to have the support of the profession and in light of today’s announcement the BMA will need to consult with members before deciding on next steps.

“The BMA has always been clear in its desire for a negotiated end to this dispute and I am committed to delivering on this.”

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has been criticised for its response to the ‘no vote’, seemingly accepting imposition of the contract.

AMRC stated: “It is disappointing that the dispute has not been resolved. We still support all our trainee doctors as they are the future.

“This has been a difficult experience for the NHS, for patients and for junior doctors. The NHS is facing a period of huge challenge and we do have to move on for the sake of patient care and for doctors themselves.

“If the Government now chooses to proceed with implementation of the contract it should be a phased process which must be sensitive to genuine problems and concerns that may arise and seek to ensure that any issues are considered and addressed.”

Junior doctors reacted angrily to this, with one saying: “This is a misguided response. I disagree that you should be encouraging the government to impose regardless.”

Sources suggest the BMA is reluctant to re-start industrial action – with six strikes this year so far – given its support for the rejected contract.

Legal challenges to the contract are ongoing. Justice For Health contends that Hunt has no legal power to impose the contract, while the BMA has challenged the legality of the contract on gender equality grounds. Clarification on both is expected soon.

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