Talks planned to end junior doctor contract dispute

13 Jan 16

Talks to avert further strikes by junior doctors are set to take place tomorrow following the end of a day of action where only emergency care was provided.

Junior doctors representatives will resume negotiations with the Department of Health and NHS Employers in a bid to avert two days of further strike action planned in a dispute over new contract terms.

The talks will be reconvened following the first of three days of planned action, which ended at 8am this morning.

For 24 hours since 8am yesterday, trainees in England only provided emergency-only care — similar to a Christmas Day service. Junior doctors will also only provide emergency care from 8am on Tuesday 26 January to 8am Thursday 28 January and will strike in full from 8am to 5pm on 10 February unless an agreement is reached.

The dispute is in relation to a new contract that health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to introduce a new contract that includes evening and weekends as plain time and not premium time as part of moves to improve care at these times.

As a result, the BMA has said doctors would be paid less for working unsocial hours than they are under the current contract, with those working in specialties with a high proportion of weekend and evening working, such as emergency medicine, affected disproportionately.

The BMA is also concerned that financial penalties faced by NHS providers for overworking doctors would be removed in the new contract and replaced by an inspection regime led by the Care Quality Commission. It was not clear how this would achieve the required controls on hours, the union said.

Junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana said junior doctors felt they have had been “left with no option” but to take action .

He added: “We have been clear throughout this process that we want to negotiate a contract that is safe and fair, and delivers for junior doctors, patients and the NHS as whole.

“This remains our goal and our door is open to talks, but the government must address our concerns around safe working patterns and ensure the contract recognises the long, intense and unsocial hours which junior doctors do.”

The action comes after conciliation talks ended last week without a deal.

Ahead of the reconvened talks at the conciliation service ACAS on Thursday, Hunt said that previous negotiations had made good progress, resolving all but one of the issues put forward by the union.

In a statement, he said: “Our absolute priority is patient safety and making sure that the NHS delivers high-quality care seven days a week – and we know that’s what doctors want to, so it is extremely disappointing that the BMA has chosen to take industrial action which helps no-one.

“We had made good progress in talks, resolving 15 of the 16 put forward by the union – everything apart from weekend pay. We have now asked ACAS to reconvene talks in the hops the BMA will return to sensible negotiations.”

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