Talks continue in bid to avert strike action by junior doctors


Talks are ongoing in a final bid to avoid strike action by thousands of junior doctors across England.

Representatives from the British Medical Association (BMA), NHS Employers and the Department of Health are locked in talks to find a settlement over a new contract.

Strike action was suspended at the 11th hour on November 30 to enable negotiations to resume with the help of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

A temporary agreement was reached but the BMA has held onto the right to stage a strike on January 13, with further strikes possible, if talks do break down.

It must give NHS trusts seven days of notice of strike action - making today a critical point in the negotiations.

The BMA has declined to comment on the latest discussions, and would only say talks are ongoing.

The basis for fresh negotiations is the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

This is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend that junior doctors can claim extra pay for "unsocial" hours.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay.

Under the revised plans, a higher rate would run from 10pm to 7am Monday to Friday, and from 7pm on Saturday evenings - a concession on the previous 10pm.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued that, under the new deal, just 1% of doctors would lose pay and those would be limited to doctors working too many hours already.

The BMA has said the increase in basic pay is misleading due to the changes to pay for unsocial hours. It also has other concerns over flexible pay plans for some specialities.

Some 98% of junior doctors balloted by the BMA voted in favour of strikes, with 2% against.

More than 37,000 doctors were balloted by the BMA, and 76% took part in the November vote.