Junior doctors urge Jeremy Hunt to guarantee medics will not see pay cut

Charlie Cooper writing in The Independent 12 October 2015 –  Chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee writes to Health Secretary seeking ‘concrete assurances’

Junior doctors have called on Jeremy Hunt to guarantee not a single medic will see their pay cut as a result of controversial contract changes that have driven the profession to the brink of strike action.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, has written to the Health Secretary outlining “concrete assurances” required for the doctors’ union to return to the negotiating table.

Jeremy HuntJeremy Hunt leaves junior doctors with no guarantee over pay

Mr Hunt wrote to the BMA last week in an attempt to break the impasse over the proposed new contracts, which would change the definition of out-of-hours work. His letter contained assurances that average pay for junior doctors would not reduce.

In his reply, Dr Malawana welcomed an “absolute guarantee” from Mr Hunt that doctors will not be forced to work unsafe hours. However, he criticised the Government’s failure to alter plans to reclassify Saturdays and weekday evenings as ordinary working hours with no extra pay.

“You state that the average pay for juniors will not reduce, and the great majority of junior doctors will be at least ‘as well paid’ as they are now – which, by definition, means that some junior doctors will receive a pay cut,” Dr Malawana writes. “You have told the press that you ‘don’t want to see any junior doctor have their pay cut’. Can we clarify that this represents your guarantee that this will not happen?”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We have already given key guarantees including protecting the overall pay-bill, ensuring the great majority of junior doctors are at least as well paid as they would be now, and reducing the number of hours worked.”

The BMA has seen a surge in membership since its junior doctor committee chose to ballot for strike action. The union is urging members to update their details by 23 October to be eligible for the ballot.

“If junior doctors are facing uncertainty and a war with the D of H what chance the rest of the NHS?”

See also: Junior doctors work 100 hours before they get a day off

Price tag on medicines – Jeremy Hunt ‘Gimmick’

Jeremy Hunt’s plans to include the price tag on medicines issued by the NHS is a “headline-grabbing ‘gimmick’ with no evidence to suggest it will reduce waste, a leading pharmaceuticals journal has said.

The Government wants all medicines costing more than £20 to carry a price tag alongside the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” to encourage people not to let their drugs expire, and to adhere to treatment regimes.

However, an editorial in the Drug and Therapeutic Bulletin, published yesterday, said that experts are “unaware” of any evidence to suggest the plan would work, and warns that it could lead to vulnerable and elderly patients viewing the cost of their medicine as a “burden on society”.

Medicine Bottle“Adherence can be a problem even for people who make a financial committment by paying for their prescriptions,” the journal’s editors write, “We are concerned that labelling medicines with their cost may result in some unintended consequences and worry patients.”

There was also a risk patients could misinterpret the price tags and consider them an indicator of the medicine’s value, they said. There is no link between the price the NHS pays for a medicine and its clinical efficacy.

Estimates suggest around £150m of medicine are avoidably wasted every year: A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We make no apology for taking action to reduce waste, and remind people about the value of the NHS services they get.”

“Its difficult enough for some disabled, elderly and vulnerable people not to feel like a ‘taxpayers burden'”

Prescription charging in the UK