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UK juniors demand more talks on pay offer

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 02 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:869
  1. Linda Beecham
  1. BMJ

    Representatives of the United Kingdom's 35 000 junior hospital doctors have sent their leaders back to the negotiating table to push for a better deal on the Department of Health's offer on out of hours pay. They want a special conference and a ballot of BMA junior members on any settlement reached.

    The offer came after years of frustration over working conditions and overtime pay. Many juniors are paid at 50% of the standard hourly rate after the first 40 hours of work, and this rate applies to nights, weekends, and bank holidays. This works out at £4.02 ($6.40) an hour for most first year junior doctors.

    The frustration culminated in a decision to ballot junior doctor members of the BMA on industrial action unless the issue was successfully resolved. The juniors had the backing of all sections of the BMA (10 July, p 74), and the association conducted a high profile campaign, which included 200 mess meetings attended by 10 000 junior doctors.

    The Department of Health made its final offer last week, the day before the meeting of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, and members were angered by press headlines declaring “Hours deal welcomed by junior doctors,” and “Doctors' strike averted.” But the junior doctors' chief negotiator, Mr Nizam Mamode, assured the committee, “A deal has not been done on your behalf. An offer has been made by the Department of Health.” The department had been left in no doubt that the offer would be taken to the committee for ratification.

    The department has offered a new contractual system for a banded salary structure starting from 1 October 2000. Additional duty hours will be abolished, and doctors will be put into one of four bands according to the intensity of their workload. For example, first year house officers earning a basic salary of £16 710 and working more than 56 hours a week could see their pay rise to £33 420 by 2002, excluding annual pay rises. The proposals would put increased pressure on trusts to reduce hours.

    Mr Mamode insisted that the offer was only the beginning of a deal. There would have to be nationally agreed criteria for deciding which doctors went into which band. It would become a contractual requirement to meet the new deal agreement, under which no juniors are supposed to work more than 56 hours a week. Pay would be protected when hours fell. The offer also included removing inappropriate jobs from junior doctors (such as form filling and portering), ensuring better accommodation and catering, and ensuring that the right support staff and equipment were available in the right places at the right time.

    The Junior Doctors Committee decided that there were insufficient details to accept or reject the offer.

    The chairman of the Junior Doctors Committee, Mr Andrew Hobart, has written to all junior doctors. His letter is on the BMA's website: (see p 868)

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