BMA agrees to re-enter talks with the Government over junior doctors' contract

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The British Medical Association has agreed to re-enter talks with the Government over the controversial contract for junior doctors.

Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee, said he hoped "real progress can now be made to ending this dispute".

The BMA will call for any contract offer - whether it is agreed or not - to be put to a referendum of junior doctors.

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt has said he wants a 'written agreement' from the BMA's junior doctors committee (Neil Hall/PA)

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that he wanted "written agreement" from the BMA's junior doctors committee that discussions over the contentious issue of unsocial hours and Saturday pay would be held in "good faith".

He added that he was seeking assurances by the end of Saturday that the union would negotiate "constructively" on the issue.

The BMA agreed to temporarily suspend planned industrial action in an attempt to thrash out a compromise with ministers.

junior doctors wear scrubs and masks as they sit down in a silent protest outside Bristol Royal Infirmary
Junior doctors sit down in a silent protest outside Bristol Royal Infirmary during the strike last week (Ben Birchall/PA)

Dr Malawana said: "The BMA has agreed to re-enter talks with the Government on outstanding issues in this dispute, which include, but are not limited to, unsocial hours.

"Junior doctors' concerns extend far beyond pay, and our principle in talks will be to deliver a fair contract that does not discriminate against women or any other group, one which addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS and which provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.

"The BMA will also call for any contract offer - agreed or not - to be put to a referendum of junior doctors, as is usual following a contract negotiation.

"We hope that with both parties back around the negotiating table, real progress can now be made to ending this dispute through talks."

Junior doctors stopped providing emergency care for the first time in NHS history during their most recent walkout
Junior doctors stopped providing emergency care for the first time in NHS history during their most recent walkout (Ben Birchall/PA)

The BMA's decision follows a wave of industrial action launched by junior doctors in recent months, which saw thousands of operations cancelled after negotiations reached an impasse, with Hunt threatening to impose the controversial contract.

The new offer of talks follows a proposal put forward by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges calling for a five-day pause in the imposition of the new contract in England.

Hunt has insisted that discussions should not concern 90% of the issues already agreed but should focus instead on outstanding contractual issues.