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Lessons to learn from junior doctors' dispute, says Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has said both sides in the "bitter and protracted" dispute over a new junior doctors' contract must learn lessons.

The Health Secretary said the deal reached on Wednesday night was a "win-win" situation for the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government, but even he had lessons to learn.

The agreement will be voted on by thousands of junior doctors across England in a ballot on June 17, with results due to be announced on July 6.

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have all got lessons to learn from what has been, at times, an incredibly bitter and protracted dispute.

"I don't think you can go through what we have been through in the last 10 months and say that everyone hasn't got lessons to learn, including the Health Secretary.

"I don't say I was responsible for the industrial action because I think that was a decision taken by the BMA."

Mr Hunt said he now has a better appreciation of concerns raised by doctors, but the Government had achieved its aims.

"I think we have come to appreciate that there was a lot of frustration, a lot of anger, felt by junior doctors about things that extend well beyond their contracts.

"I don't think it's helpful to talk about winners and losers in a situation like like this. The Government secured our important red lines for delivering a safer seven-day service. It's also very good for doctors. I think it is a win-win.

"What changed was the brave decision by the leader of the junior doctors' committee of the BMA to have sensible, proper negotiations about weekend premium pay.

"Once he had done that, I think we found that there were lots of other issues that we were able to sort out very quickly."

Under the deal, Saturdays and Sundays will attract premium pay if doctors work seven or more weekends in a year. The vast majority of doctors work more than this.

Doctors will receive a percentage of their annual salary for working these weekends - ranging from 3% for working one weekend in seven to up to 10% if they work one weekend in two.

Any night shift - on any day of the week - which starts at or after 8pm and lasts more than eight hours, and which finishes at or by 10am the following day, will give an enhanced pay rate of 37% for all the hours worked.

The deal also sets out systems of payment for doctors who are on call.

This allowance is applied as 8% of basic pay over and above any weekend allowance.

Across the board, there will be an average basic pay increase of between 10% and 11%, down from the 13% put forward originally by the Government.

There are also new agreements aimed at reducing discrimination against anyone who takes leave to care for others, such as new mothers or those on parental leave.

This includes accelerated training support to enable people to catch up, such as mentoring and study leave funding.

If agreed by BMA members, all junior doctors will move on to the new terms between October and August next year.

Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA's junior doctor committee chairman, said: "Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.

"I believe that what has been agreed delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high-quality care for patients.

"This represents the best and final way of resolving the dispute and this is what I will be saying to junior doctors in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the new contract."

The agreement to resume talks follows a wave of industrial action by junior doctors in recent months.

They stopped providing emergency care for the first time in NHS history during their most recent walkout. More than 125,000 appointments and operations were postponed, on top of almost 25,000 procedures cancelled during previous action.


From Belfast Telegraph