Ministerial assurances that no junior doctor will see their pay cut under a new contract ‘could be a step in the right direction’, the BMA said.
However, junior doctors leaders insisted the Government should withdraw its threat to impose a new contract on trainees in England.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt made the pledge regarding junior doctors’ pay in a letter to BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana.
The contents of the letter were revealed ahead of a parliamentary debate by the Opposition during which MPs were due to call for a guarantee that no trainee should suffer a pay cut under a new contract.
Responding to the minister’s letter, Dr Malawana said: ‘It is encouraging that the health secretary has finally made a significant shift and recognised some of the concerns raised by junior doctors.
'However, it has taken the threat of industrial action and the sight of thousands of junior doctors taking to the streets to reach this point.
‘The BMA has been quite clear that the Government must withdraw the threat of imposition of new contracts on junior doctors, the extensive preconditions to negotiations the Department of Health keeps insisting on, and provide junior doctors with the assurances they are demanding before re-entering negotiations.
'[The] letter from the health secretary could be a step in the right direction.
We look forward to seeing more of the detail that the health secretary has committed to providing in the coming few days.’
In his letter to Dr Malawana, Mr Hunt says he will be ‘setting out the full details of the Government’s contractual offer to junior doctors in the coming days’.
He adds: ‘I sincerely hope that on the basis of these assurances you will reconsider your refusal to enter negotiations.'
Mr Hunt writes that he hopes the new contract would improve patient safety by better supporting a seven-day NHS and that it would mean no doctor in training would be required to work more than an average 48-hour week with a new maximum 72-hour working week.
The health secretary goes on to say that there would be a new maximum shift pattern of four consecutive night shifts and five long day shifts.
Read more about the junior doctor contract and the BMA’s actions
Read the secretary of state’s letter
The story so far