Junior doctors have reacted angrily to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's offer of an 11% basic pay rise in a bid to stave off strike action. Hunt will announce the measure - which is part of a bundle of new concessions - on 4 November, a day before 45,000 trainee doctors ballot for strike action.
The Health Secretary incurred a huge backlash from medics after threatening to force a punitive new contract on them. Hunt will also back down from his original plan by saying that only Saturday mornings will count as "normal" working hours, and not until 10pm as per his initial intention. A variety of NHS services - including planned operations - would be affected should trainee doctors go on strike.
In spite of Hunt's apparent retreat, doctors have reacted furiously to the news, pointing out that the row is not just about money, but the broader concerns of patient safety and a better work-life balance. He also risks angering medics further by saying that the salary increase is far more than the 1% maximum pay rise that other public sector workers can expect. Hunt is set to give the NHS regulator (the Care Quality Commission) powers to guarantee that junior doctors are not overworked.
"I don't care how much money is thrown our way," Dr Shubhra Sinha said. "I'm not working endless unmonitored hours with no respect for my research abilities nor need for a personal life.
"Tired doctors make costly mistakes but not ones that can be rectified with cash."
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: "Junior doctors need facts, not piecemeal announcements and we need to see the full detail of this latest, eleventh hour offer to understand what, in reality, it will mean for junior doctors." He added: "We have repeatedly asked for such detail in writing from the Secretary of State, but find, instead, that this has been released to media without sharing it with junior doctors' representatives.
"What we do know, however, is that Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly changed his position on pay and just last week was caught out trying to gloss over the truth when he said that no doctor would have their pay cut, only hours later to admit that those working the longest hours would in fact see a reduction in pay.
"The BMA and junior doctors have been clear that we want to reach a negotiated agreement with the government on a contract that is good for patients, junior doctors and the NHS. In order to do this we have said, repeatedly, that the government must remove the threat of imposition and provide the concrete assurances junior doctors have asked for on a contract that is safe and fair.
"We are clear that without the assurances we require, the BMA will be left with little option but to continue with our plans to ballot members. The government have so far failed to provide these reasonable assurances, preferring instead to engage in megaphone diplomacy and plough ahead with plans to impose a contract that would be bad for patients as well as junior doctors," Malawana added.