Talks to resolve junior doctors' contract dispute due to resume


Talks aimed at resolving a dispute over a new contract for junior doctors will resume today.

Government officials, the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers will meet representatives from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for talks from 10am.

On Monday, the BMA announced three spells of strike action in England after negotiations with the Government ended with no resolution.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the talks on Monday lasted less than an hour before BMA doctors walked out.

The BMA has said there are still several areas of dispute, including on weekend pay.

Junior doctors are set to provide emergency care only from 8am on Tuesday.

This will be followed by a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on January 26.

On February 10, there will be a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm.

The strikes could still be called off at the 11th hour if a settlement can be made. Strikes were suspended at the last minute on November 30.

The basis for the current round of 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 for which 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 Government's offer, junior doctors would receive time-and-a-half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time-and-a-third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.

Junior doctors would also receive on-call availability allowances, ranging from 2% to 6% of basic pay, as well as payment for work undertaken as a result of being on-call.

The strikes would lead to disruption for thousands of NHS patients. Suspended strike action in November led to the cancellation of thousands of operations, procedures and appointments.