Consultants to re-enter talks over seven-day NHS working
Consultants have agreed to re-enter negotiations with the Government over contract reforms aimed at achieving seven-day working across the NHS, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
The doctors' union said talks had reopened because the Government had agreed to "better safeguards" and any proposals resulting from the negotiations would go before consultants early next year.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had given the BMA until this month to negotiate changes that would ensure "proper" seven-day services, including the end of the weekend work opt-out clause, and warned he is ready to impose a new contract if they cannot agree.
The reopening of talks between hospital consultants and NHS Employers comes almost a month after the BMA's UK junior doctor committee voted not to re-enter contract negotiations, saying the Government's offer was "unacceptable".
BMA consultants committee chairman Paul Flynn said: "The BMA is committed to reaching agreement on a contract that delivers high-quality, safe patient care across the week.
"There is still much to discuss, but we want to deliver a contract that is good for patients, fair for doctors and good for the NHS."
Dr Flynn cited the BMA's recent survey, which found nearly nine out of 10 doctors reported being on call at weekends and overnight, and added: "In areas such as emergency medicine, consultants have been the driving force behind 24/7 working patterns.
"The real obstacle to delivering more seven-day services is not the consultant contract but the lack of staff, investment and resources needed to deliver extra care at a time of enormous strain on existing services.
"This is why it is important that the Government works with us constructively in the coming months and provides more detail on how it plans to staff and fund more weekend care."
The BMA committee's decision relates to consultants in England only, while those working in Northern Ireland are due to decide on further talks on September 17.