Wage proposal angers junior doctors in Norfolk

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital junior doctor, James Rowson, upset that the junior doctor's

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital junior doctor, James Rowson, upset that the junior doctor's salaries are to be cut. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Junior doctors in Norfolk have warned government plans to shake up payments for working unsociable hours will have harsh consequences for the NHS.

They say their wages will effectively be slashed by up to 40pc – and fear the plans will risk patient safety, put off future medical students, and force current junior doctors to leave the NHS for work abroad.

The Department of Health (DoH) says it believes the system in place is unfair for doctors and patients, and added their proposal aimed to improve patient safety.

But the DoH's plans have angered Dr James Rowson, a junior doctor who began working at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital two months ago. 'I'm engaged, we will want to get a house, and at some point I would like a car,' he said.

'I have around £49,000 of student debts. If they cut 30pc of my wages then that is a significant amount.

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'We also stay hours later at work because we care for our patients.'

He said he was 'seriously tempted' to obtain permission to work overseas, should the proposal be pushed through.

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The government's proposal, which would come into force next summer, will reclassify junior doctors' normal working week to include Saturday and stretch up to 10pm every night of the week except Sunday.

It will see the period counted as a normal working week – in which a junior doctor can work what is usually around 48 hours – change from being during the 60 hours from 7am to 7pm between Monday and Friday, to 90 hours from 7am to 10pm between Monday and Saturday.

They will lose out by no longer earning extra pay as evenings and Saturdays will be paid at the standard rate.

The base rate for a junior doctor's starting wage is around £22,600. But under the current system, doctors can add another £10,000 or so to their annual wage by working unsociable hours.

The uproar caused by the proposal has prompted the British Medical Association to announce they will ballot junior doctors about taking industrial action.

Dr Trevor Killeen, a junior doctor at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, welcomed the BMA's decision. He said: 'Their plans make me feel very angry. I think the decision to ballot members was the right one. Everyone is gravely concerned about the impact the changes will have on patient safety, junior doctors and the future of the NHS as a free-at-the-point of service healthcare system.'

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will meet leaders of the Junior Doctors Council over the issue.

A DoH spokesman said: 'The current contract is unfair for doctors and patients, so we want to discuss a way forward that maintains average earnings and doesn't cut the pay bill.'

Are you a junior doctor? Have your say by emailing nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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