Health

Junior doctor contract will be imposed - Hunt

Striking doctors Image copyright AFP

The junior doctor contract will be imposed on medics in England, following the profession's rejection of the terms, ministers have confirmed.

The decision was widely expected, after British Medical Association members voted 58% to 42% against accepting the deal, agreed by government and union negotiators in May.

The BMA had urged them to accept it.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said doctors would start moving on to the contract in the coming months.

Most of the profession should be on it by autumn next year, he added.

It comes after the dispute has led to junior doctors taking part in six strikes this year, including the first all-out stoppages in the history of the NHS.

The BMA has yet to respond to the announcement. Its junior doctor leader, Dr Johann Malawana, resigned when the result of the vote was announced on Tuesday.

He had told BMA members the deal was a good one that should be accepted, during meetings ahead of the poll of 54,000 junior doctors and medical students.

The BMA still has a mandate to take strike action, but it will be up to a new junior doctor leader to decide what the next steps are.

Ahead of the result of the vote being announced, senior sources at the BMA had indicated there was little appetite for prolonging the dispute, given the climate in the country following the EU vote.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said it had been a "difficult decision" but he had been left with no choice, especially given the uncertainty facing the country.

"We've been left in no man's land that if it continues can only damage the NHS," he said.

The vote of BMA members was held after talks at conciliation services Acas two months ago finally resulted in a deal being agreed by negotiators.

The terms agreed differed significantly from the previous government offer, which ministers had announced in February they would impose, before agreeing to those last-minute talks in May.

Instead of dividing the weekend between normal and unsocial hours, a system of supplements to be paid depending on how many weekends a doctor worked over the course of a year was drawn up. This is the contract that will be introduced.

But despite the union's agreement, many members remained unconvinced, believing it still did not properly reward them for the demands of the job, while they remained sceptical that the government's plans for a seven-day service would be properly funded.