Junior doctors are keen to 'rediscover common ground' in contract talks

The leader of the junior doctors said they are determined to "rediscover the common ground" with ministers as they continue talks to resolve the dispute over contracts.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government have been meeting all week to try to negotiate a deal and prevent a fresh round of strikes.

Dr Johann Malawana told the BMA's junior doctors conference that no agreement has been reached but said a more conciliatory tone had been struck.

He told the conference in London: "Our attitude in these negotiations has been not to trade grievances but to resolve them.

"Our aim has been to rediscover the common ground that is so great but so easily neglected - the shared interest of everyone in the health service to improve care for our patients.

"The temptation has been to relive the resentments, which are many, but instead we have tried to rediscover the opportunities."

However, he reiterated criticisms of proposed changes to junior doctors' contracts which he warned would leave services and doctors dangerously overstretched.

He said that when the changes were put to doctors 300 days ago they had hoped for a contract "that was better" but "had to start with a vision of one that was immeasurably worse".

He warned many junior doctors were leaving Britain to move overseas because of the proposed changes, which saw the first-ever all-out strike in NHS history.

A doctor wearing a BMA badge.
(Andrew Matthews/PA)

He said: "We have been arguing for 300 days about issues which have damaged junior doctors' morale and the quality of patient care for much longer than that, and would continue to do so.

"It's not the 300 days, but these days that matter now. We're talking. They're listening. We're listening too.

"If this were a movie, I'd now pull out a large envelope with the word 'deal' written on it. We're not there, and I can't even add the word 'yet' to the end of that sentence."

But he was more optimistic and the talks have seen a new "spirit of constructive engagement" emerge.

A doctor wearing a BMA badge.
(Matt Dunham/AP)

Signalling their commitment to the talks, he added: "Now that we're talking, let's keep talking."

The negotiations, sponsored by the conciliation and mediation service Acas, are set to resume on Monday.

The BMA has said any deal would need to be put before junior doctors in a ballot, which could take several weeks.

If the talks fail, the Government has indicated it will push ahead with the imposition of the contract.

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