Dr Dan Poulter accuses Government of compromising patient safety over new junior doctor contracts

Dr Daniel Poulter MP

Dr Daniel Poulter MP - Credit: Archant

Former health minister Dan Poulter had accused the Government of imposing excessive working hours and compromising patient safety with its new junior doctor contracts.

The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, who was in the Department for Heath until May, said doctors were “rightly upset” about proposed cuts to their pay.

Writing for The Guardian website last night Dr Poulter accused the Government of using it as a “crude lever” to close a funding gap.

He claims that when he was a health minister overseeing the change in contracts there were many areas of broad agreement with the British Medical Association (BMA), but that negotiations had ended when BMA representatives walked out of talks about consultant contracts.

He claims that the new contract raises the prospect of 90-hour week being written into junior doctor rotas.

Dr Poulter left the Department for Health in May to do more work in his constituency and to re-train and work in medicine part-time. His job was taken by Suffolk colleague Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who is now the minister in charge of the new contracts.

A Department for Health spokesman said Dr Poulter’s claims were “incorrect”.

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“Our proposals will mean average pay will not go down and there is no intention to increase working hours. In fact, we want to offer more safeguards over total hours worked for junior doctors than ever before,” he added.

The spokesman has called on the Junior Doctors Committee to re-enter negotiations and to “work with us to put in place a new contract that’s safe for patients and fair for doctors.”

But Dr Poulter said: “Junior doctors are not easily roused. They are rightly upset about proposed cuts to their pay, but the recent unprecedented decision to ballot for strike action is not fundamentally about money. It is rooted in very valid concerns about a contract that could compromise patient safety.”

He said the new contract would “further discourage” doctors from choosing careers in specialities already facing acute recruitment and retention challenges.

Adding that reforming national contracts for doctors was “perhaps one crude lever available to a secretary of state looking for ways to close the gap”.

Dr Poulter and Mr Gummer could not be reached for comment last night.

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