Jeremy Hunt urged to accept BMA's offer to avert junior doctors' strike


The Government should accept the British Medical Association's offer to call off the junior doctors' strike, leading medics have said.

The presidents of medical royal colleges and faculties across the UK have urged Jeremy Hunt to remove the threat to impose a new contract on junior doctors and resume negotiations to avert the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS.

The strike is scheduled to start next Tuesday morning and will see thousands of junior doctors across England withdraw full labour - even emergency care.

On Tuesday, the BMA said it was making a "clear offer" to the Health Secretary, saying it will call off next week's strike if he removes the threat to impose a new contract.

But Mr Hunt said it is not possible to "change or delay" the introduction of the controversial contract.

Now, leaders from across the medical spectrum have called on the Health Secretary to change his mind.

A statement from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said: "The BMA has offered to call off the all-out strike planned for April 26-27 if the Government will lift imposition of a new junior doctor contract and return to the negotiating table. We urge the Government to accept this offer.

"Both sides must show a genuine commitment to reaching a negotiated settlement."

The BMA's junior doctor committee chairman, Dr Johann Malawana, requested an urgent meeting with Mr Hunt on Tuesday and said the key to ending the strike is in Mr Hunt's hands.

Dr Malawana added: "With preparations under way for the first full walkout of doctors in this country, the Government cannot continue to stick its head in the sand.

"It must now listen to the many voices raising concerns about its mishandled plans and do what it has refused to for far too long: put patients first, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks."

In his letter to Dr Malawana, Mr Hunt wrote: "It is not now possible to change or delay the introduction of this contract without creating unacceptable disruption for the NHS.

"It is clear that the industrial action you plan will put patients in harm's way. The first step to averting this must be serious recognition of the offer that Sir David made, so that we can have talks about the many other areas where training and quality of life can be improved for junior doctors."

Junior doctors will fully withdraw labour between the hours of 8am and 5pm on April 26 and 27. In previous strikes, junior doctors provided emergency care cover.

The major sticking point in the dispute has been over weekend pay and whether Saturdays should attract extra "unsocial" payments.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attracts a premium rate of pay for junior doctors. But the Government has said the Saturday day shift must be paid at a normal rate.