§ Mr. Marquand
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement on junior doctors' contracts.
§ Mrs. Castle
My Department is moving as rapidly as possible towards authorising health authorities to implement the recommendations on the pay of junior doctors made by the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration. The Review Body's report was published on 11th February and a draft implementation circular was sent to the Hospital Junior Staffs Committee in time for its meeting on 24th February arranged to discuss the report. The committee sent its comments in writing on 2nd March and the Department's reply was sent to it yesterday. I understand that the committee wishes to discuss the matter further at its meeting later in the week, and I hope that the agreement of the full Staff Side will follow. We shall then be able to write to health authorities straight away so that they can make the recommended payments.
There have been reports of delays in some parts of the country in drawing up 208W new contracts for junior staff. I have made it clear to the Hospital Junior Staffs Committee on several occasions that I would be glad to do all I can to resolve this sort of difficulty if the necessary details were to be provided. My Department obtained yesterday from the Staff Side information about some areas of apparent difficulty and is looking into them. In view of reports that some junior doctors are contemplating a restriction of their hours of work on the ground of unreasonable delay by health authorities who are waiting for the issue of the implementation circular, I hope that they will take note that this depends on the completion of the agreement by their representatives.
As has already been discussed with the profession, it will necessarily take a little time for the new payments to be made to individuals. Every practical effort will be made to institute the payments by the end of April. There is, however, no question of junior staff losing income: the payments will be made retrospectively from 9th February 1976, in accordance with my agreement with the professions.