New push to resolve junior doctors' dispute


Renewed efforts will begin to find a breakthrough in the deadlock over junior doctors' contracts in the wake of their first 24-hour strike.

The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government will return to the negotiating table for two days from 10am on Thursday, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) said.

Neither side has made concessions in public, with the BMA warning there were still several issues still to be resolved and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemning the strike as "wholly unnecessary".

Junior doctors returned to work after a 24-hour walkout which led to the cancellation of around 4,000 operations and thousands of cancelled appointments.

Two further strikes are planned - the second of which would involve a refusal to take part in emergency care - but it is hoped talks could break the stalemate.

BMA council chairman Dr Mark Porter told the BBC there was "not just one remaining issue" regarding weekend pay.

He said: "There are some serious issues about patient safety and recognition of junior doctors' contributions that need to be sorted here and the very fact that government documents refuse to acknowledge those issues is one of the things that makes the dispute more difficult to resolve."

The Government's new head negotiator Sir David Dalton has pledged to "engage with the BMA team directly and listen to their outstanding concerns".

In a letter to NHS bosses last week, the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust chief executive said: "It is really important that at this crucial stage I really listen to everyone and craft a solution which is safe and fair and commands support."

If no resolution is found, there will be 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 long-running dispute centres on changes to medics' pay and working conditions and the basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay.

But 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.