Full text of the letter:
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
7 February 2015
Junior doctors’ contract negotiations
I write regarding the deadlock in the ACAS facilitated negotiations on a new junior doctors’ contract.
The involvement in recent weeks of Sir David Dalton in the negotiations has been welcome. I am however disappointed that talks have broken down again without an agreement, leading to this week’s industrial action.
I note the concessions that the Government have made in some areas but I would urge you to go further – particularly in relation to plain time working on a Saturday. I believe you should make an explicit and significant public commitment to further concessions on this point and I would encourage the BMA to re-enter negotiations should you do so.
If you are not willing to do this, a new contract should not be imposed. Such a decision on your part could lead to protracted industrial action and widespread anger among other NHS staff at a time when morale is already at rock bottom. All that can be done to avoid this, must be done and should you believe my involvement might be helpful in any way in avoiding such a scenario, I would ask you to let me know.
As you will appreciate from my comments in the House and to the media, I understand why a process to reform the junior doctors’ contract was initiated. However, your determination to conflate contract reform with your manifesto commitment for a seven-day NHS has resulted in a fundamental breakdown of trust.
Patients must come first in this process – the prospect of months of further damage to staff morale, potential disruption to services and long-term loss of staff to other countries is not in the interests of the people who depend on the NHS every day. We urgently need to see a resolution to this dispute, which doesn’t involve imposing a new contract, and I hope that together we can find a way to do so.
Given the significant interest in this matter, I am making this letter public.
Heidi Alexander MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Health