Talks to resume in junior doctors dispute


Talks are due to resume in a bid to break the stalemate in a long-running dispute over junior doctors' contracts as further strikes loom.

Discussions between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government were held on Thursday and are due to continue on Friday.

Junior doctors staged a 24-hour walkout on Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of around 4,000 operations and thousands of appointments.

Two further strikes are planned - a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on Tuesday January 26, and a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm on Wednesday February 10.

The disagreement 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.

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

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."

Talks are due to resume at 9am, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) said.