Borough health chief distances himself from doctors’ imposed deal

Andrew Foster
Andrew Foster

WIGAN’S hospital chief has distanced himself from suggestions he and several opposite numbers agreed to a new junior doctors contract being imposed after their names were linked to a letter Jeremy Hunt used to justify the decision.

The names of 20 English NHS trust leaders, including that of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Andrew Foster, were attached to a letter from chief negotiator Sir David Dalton advising the Government to do “whatever it deems necessary” to break the deadlock with medics.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday said he was imposing a settlement on the doctors after they rejected his final “take it or leave it” pay and terms offer.

But around half of the chief executives named have said they did not agree to the contract being forced on medics, even though they backed the terms being offered by the Government.

They include at least one who said she was unaware that her name was on the letter until it was actually published.

And Mr Foster said the letter he and 19 other NHS leaders backed was not the one that advised the Government to do “whatever it deems necessary” to break the deadlock.

Mr Foster said he had “not supported contract imposition. I have supported the view that the offer made is reasonable”.

When it was put to him on Twitter that he had supported Sir David Dalton’s letter and its advice to Jeremy Hunt that the Government should do “whatever it deems necessary” to end uncertainty for the NHS, Mr Foster said: “That is not the paragraph that I agreed to. I did not agree with imposition.”

He added: “The letter we supported was a different one to that published today.”

Sir David denied that the chief executives listed on the letter had been asked to give their support to imposed contracts.

He told the Health Service Journal (HSJ): “The statement that they agreed to was confirming that the best and final position was considered fair and reasonable, and that they believed the NHS needed certainty and not continuation of the stalemate.

“If anyone wants to make an inference (from this that they supported) imposition then that is their inference, (but) that is not what (the signatories) have committed their names to. I neither want to say they do or that they don’t. There is a variety of opinion on this.”

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents junior doctors, has vowed to fight the decision and medics have reacted with anger.

Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA’s junior doctor committee chairman, said: “The decision to impose a contract is a sign of total failure on the Government’s part.”

The BMA has already staged two walkouts and further strikes and legal actions are possibilities, while some junior doctors may refuse to sign new contracts which are due to be implemented from August.

Hundreds of doctors have applied for permission to work abroad in the past month, according to the Daily Mail.

The paper said the General Medical Council had granted 760 doctors a certificate of current professional status, allowing them to operate overseas, in January, added to the 8,627 who successfully applied last year.

And a Guardian survey found four in five healthcare workers have considered leaving their job in the NHS, of which 84 per cent have thought about it more in the last year, because of increasing workloads and stress.

The new contract will mean an increase in basic salary of 13.5 per cent and that three quarters of doctors will see their take-home pay increase, Mr Hunt said.

No doctor working contracted hours would see a pay cut while too many night shifts and long shifts will also be limited.

Under the new contract, 7am to 5pm on Saturdays will be regarded as a normal working day.

Doctors working one in four or more Saturdays will receive a pay premium of 30 per cent.