An 11 per cent pay rise looks like a brilliant deal – until you consider what Jeremy Hunt is asking junior doctors to give up. And we’ve established before that, if you’re a doctor, you’re not stupid.
In exchange for the 11 per cent rise, Hunt wants to scrap a banding system which offers doctors 40-50 per cent more money, depending on their responsibilities, hours worked, and the frequency at which they are ‘on call’.
Is it still an attractive deal?
He still wants a significant increase in the hours for which junior doctors receive only basic pay.
And he would remove what the BMA considers a “vital safety net” preventing junior doctors from being made to work excessive hours that could leave them so tired that they present a threat to patients.
That could be the stake-through-the-heart that kills this plan.
Once, not so many years ago, the UK’s health secretary had a responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service for everybody in the country.
Now, according to his own offer to doctors, it seems Mr Hunt is determined to do more harm than good.
Jeremy Hunt is to offer junior doctors an 11% pay rise in a last-minute bid to stop them going on strike just as the NHS is preparing for its most pressured time of year.
The health secretary’s dramatic move – part of a package of new concessions he will announce on Wednesday – is intended to persuade England’s 45,000 trainee doctors, who are furious at his threat to impose a punitive new contract on them, to vote against strike action when their ballot begins on Thursday.
He is expected to stress that the offered 11% increase in basic pay is far more than the maximum 1% annual rises that public sector workers have been told to expect in the next few years. However, the proposed rise would neither cost nor save the NHS any money, sources say. Hunt pledged last week that no junior doctor would be worse off under the new contract.
Hunt’s intervention comes as the junior doctors committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents most doctors, prepares to ballot its members about their willingness to take action, which would affect a wide range of NHS services, and lead to the cancellation of planned operations and outpatient clinics, most likely in the run-up to Christmas.
Hunt hopes that the 11% uplift will persuade junior doctors to accept him scrapping the banding system, which dictates how much juniors are paid, depending on their responsibilities, hours worked and how often they are on call.
Banding currently gives junior doctors 40% to 50% more money on top of their basic salary. Hunt will argue that trainees will still be able to earn the same money as now, despite banding disappearing, by still receiving extra money from the on-call supplement, out of hours payments, “flexible pay premia” – financial inducements to persuade juniors to choose certain branches of medicine suffering from major shortages of doctors – additional rostered hours and the extra 11%.
In a further climbdown from his original hardline position, Hunt will also concede that in future only Saturday morning will count as part of a junior doctor’s normal working week, for which they receive basic pay. That is a further retreat from his initial plan to extend the hours in which trainees get only basic rates to include all day Saturday from 7am to 10pm.
In a further concession the health secretary will also guarantee that flexible pay premia will be extended to more specialties than originally intended. Until now Hunt only promised that young doctors opting to specialise in general practice or A&E care would receive them.
But it is hard to predict if this latest offer will avert a walkout as he has also decided not to budge on several key issues which have roused junior doctors’ anger. For example, he still intends to significantly increase the hours in which junior doctors receive only basic pay from the existing 7pm on weekdays to 10pm. Junior doctors are likely to argue that such an extension would wipe out the value of an 11% pay rise as they would lose more money than they would gain because weekday evenings would no longer count as antisocial shifts, a system which bulks up the pay that many receive.
Hunt also plans to press ahead with removing what the BMA says is a vital safety net that prevents hospitals from forcing juniors to work excessive hours that could leave medics so tired that they pose a threat to patients.
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