Jeremy Hunt today announced the government would impose a new contract on junior doctors, despite medics rejecting the proposed deal in a vote.
The health secretary said the decision of junior doctors to vote against the new contract, which British Medical Association negotiators agreed with the government in May, had left the NHS in a “no man’s land” which would be damaging if he allowed it to continue.
Speaking in the Commons today Mr Hunt said he had decided to impose the that same contract deal, rather than the previous arrangements he had threatened to impose in March.
He added: “Unfortunately because of the vote, we are now left in a no man’s land that if it continues can only damage the NHS.
“I have this morning decided that the only realistic way to end the impasse is to proceed with the phased introduction of the exact contract that was negotiated, agreed and supported by the BMA leadership.
“This is a difficult decision to make.
“I believe the agreement negotiated in May is better for junior doctors and better for the NHS than the original contract we planned to introduce in March.”
The BMA announced on Tuesday that 58 per cent of junior doctors in the union’s ballot had voted against the new contract, on a turnout of 68 per cent.
Following the ballot the BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana announced his resignation, having pledged his support public support for the new negotiated contract.
The union today said Ellen McCourt had been chosen to fill the post.
Mr Hunt said in the wake of the resignation it was not clear whether anyone at the union could deliver the support of its members for the contract, but stressed he was willing to speak to Dr McCourt about how it will be imposed.
He added: “It is important to note even though we are proceeding without consensus this decision a not a rejection of the legitimate concerns of junior doctors about working conditions.”
The health secretary said the new contract would be phased in starting with senior obstetrics trainees, followed by foundation year one doctors in November and December. Foundation year two junior doctors will be moved on to the new contract when their current ones expire and Mr Hunt said all junior doctors will be moved onto the new contract by October next year.
Mr Hunt also announced an independent report would be carried out into reducing and eliminating the gender pay gap. A lead for the work would be chosen soon and initial considerations revealed in September, he said.