Junior Doctors: Conditions of Employment

Department of Health written question – answered on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consultation was carried out over the reclassification of "plain time" in the new contract for junior doctors; and what analysis was carried out on the effects on patient safety of that new contract.

Photo of Lord Prior of Brampton Lord Prior of Brampton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health

Proposals for a new contract are on the basis of a report by the independent Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) which was asked to make recommendations when the British Medical Association (BMA) walked away from over two years of negotiations in October 2014. The DDRB took evidence from a range of parties including the BMA.

The DDRB noted that research into other sectors showed that it was not uncommon for plain time to finish between 8pm and 10pm and that Saturdays were becoming increasingly normalised. Its report recommended that the scenarios in NHS Employers’ evidence – for plain time to end at 10pm rather than 7pm on weekdays and for Saturdays to be treated the same as weekdays - shouldbe the basis for further discussions. The Government has asked the BMA to return to negotiations on the basis of that recommendation, with the Secretary of State giving the assurance that nights and Sundays will continue to attract unsocial hours payments and making clear that he would be pleased to discuss in negotiations how far plain time working extends on Saturdays.

The Government’s intention has always been for a contract that promotes patient safety. Contrary to misinformation from the BMA, working hours will not increase. The Secretary of State has given an absolute guarantee that the contract will not impose longer hours. Rather, it will introduce stronger limits on working hours with: 48 weekly hours on average (56 for those who opt-out of Working Time Regulations); a maximum of 72 hours in any week (lower than the current 91); no shift rostered to exceed 13 hours; no more than five long shifts consecutively; no more than four night shifts consecutively; and no more than seven consecutive on-call periods. It will also introduce work schedules tailored to individual educational needs and a strong system requiring the employer to review when hours or training opportunities vary from the work schedule.

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