I would like to assure you that I, and the Health Secretary, know junior doctors already work seven days a week, playing a vital role in our NHS and doing a fantastic job delivering excellent care for patients. The Government's reforms are intended to improve patient safety and properly reward - not penalise - NHS staff, ensuring safer working hours and delivering a truly seven-day health service. I know that's what doctors want too, so it is extremely disappointing that the BMA chose unnecessary industrial action, which helps no one, in place of negotiation.
Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations. It is my understanding that progress has been made on almost 100 different points of discussion, with agreement secured with the BMA on approximately 90 per cent of them. Sadly, despite this progress and willingness from the Government to be flexible on the issue of Saturday pay, the leader of the negotiating team, Sir David Dalton, has now advised the Government that a negotiated solution is not realistically possible.
So, to end the uncertainty for the service, the Government will now proceed with the introduction of a new contract that is safer for patients and fair and reasonable for junior doctors. Doctors are not facing a pay cut, new safeguards will reduce hours and 75 per cent of trainees will actually get a pay rise. To view details of the Government's firm offer to junior doctors, please visit this web page: www.nhsemployers.org/juniordoctors
The process of negotiation has uncovered some wider and more deep-seated issues relating to junior doctors' morale, wellbeing and quality of life. So I welcome the announcement that Dame Sue Bailey, President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, will lead a review into measures outside the contract that can be taken to improve the morale of the junior doctor workforce. Further details of this review will be set out soon.
There is also a need to train more GPs, which is why the Government has mandated Health Education England (HEE) to provide national leadership on education, training and workforce development in the National Health Service in England.
That mandate requires HEE to ensure a minimum of 3,250 trainees per year are recruited to GP training programmes in England by 2016. There are now 36,920 full time equivalent GPs working and training in the NHS, an increase of over 1,600 since September 2010.
In addition, in January, a £10 million investment was announced to kick start a new plan to expand the general practice workforce. The plan covers a wide range of measures to recruit more aspiring medical students to take up a career in general practice, retain those doctors already working there, and provide support for those GPs who have taken a career break to get back into work.
You also may be interested to learn that there are now 6,400 fewer managers in the NHS and over 9,000 more doctors since 2010. It is a Government priority to ensure that frontline NHS services are properly supported.