Doctors' Contracts

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch 12:00 am, 18th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he next intends to discuss doctors' contracts with the British Medical Association; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Minister of State (Department of Health)

Ministers meet BMA representatives regularly to discuss a range of issues.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

In view of the evaporation of the objections of the BMA and a large number of doctors to the Government's policy, does my hon. Friend agree that the debate is being drawn up along the following lines, with the Confederation of Health Service Employees, the National Union of Public Employees and the Labour party on one side and the Government, the taxpayers and the patients on the other? My hon. Friend is aware that junior hospital doctors' hours have been a matter of concern for many years. Will she do more to publicise the results of the recent negotiations on that issue?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Minister of State (Department of Health)

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Labour party is increasingly losing credibility with patients, the public and the NHS staff because we are seeing concrete achievements by the NHS as the reforms work out in practice. We frequently talk with the BMA about junior doctors' hours. We have agreed to a new deal, with £60 million extra going in to tackle the problems of junior doctors and 500 extra staff. Moreover, we have agreed in full to the pay review body's recommendations on how to fund the doctors' new contracts. Shortly, we shall launch a further information campaign because, to achieve the changes in junior doctors' hours, it is important that the NHS task forces in each region can work with the juniors, managers and consultants to find practical solutions at their particular places of work. We believe that we have seen the end of that problem. We must complete that process.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Does the Minister realise that there is great disquiet among doctors about the slow implementation of an improvement in their hours and conditions? In that context, will she look at the pooling system that applies to GP contracts, because many GPs have improved their work in terms of cervical smears and other tests in preventive medicine, but have ended up worse off as a result?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Minister of State (Department of Health)

The number of hours a week worked by juniors has come down by about 10 hours since the Labour party was in power. In the past year, the number of those contracted to be on duty for more than 83 hours has halved, but we must go much further. Above all, we must move junior doctors on to a shift system so that they do not work more than 60 hours, coming down to 56 hours in the most intensive posts. We now have an agreement from all those concerned—the colleges, consultants, juniors and the health service—and we must find practical arrangements in each working unit to complete the task.