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Talks continue in bid to reach settlement in junior doctors' dispute

Published 11/05/2016

Efforts to resolve the junior doctors' dispute are continuing
Efforts to resolve the junior doctors' dispute are continuing

Doctors' leaders and Government officials have entered their third day of talks to try to come to an agreement over the controversial contract for junior medics.

The British Medical Association (BMA) and Department of Health officials returned to the negotiating table on Monday in a bid to resolve the dispute.

The talks, held at the conciliation service Acas, began after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed to a five-day pause in the imposition of the new junior doctors' contract.

Around 90% of the contract had previously been agreed, but the main bone of contention was over whether Saturdays should attract extra "unsocial" payments, among other issues.

Last week Mr Hunt said he wanted assurances from the BMA's junior doctors committee that discussions over the contentious issue would be held in "good faith".

On Tuesday Mr Hunt urged the BMA to "play ball" during negotiations.

Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons: "We have always wanted a negotiated outcome to this dispute. That's why we paused the introduction of the new contracts last November in order to give a chance for talks to succeed.

"That's why this week I have said we will give a further pause in the introduction of the new contracts, to see if we can get a negotiated outcome.

"We absolutely want a motivated workforce, which is why we are very cognisant of the fact that hospitals that offer seven day care and higher standards of care for patients are the very hospitals which have some of the highest levels of morale in the NHS.

"It does take two to tango and I very much hope that the BMA will play ball and play their part this week in helping us to deliver a safer, seven day NHS."

Dr Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee, has said that any contract - whether agreed or not - should be put to a referendum of junior doctors.

Medics will be convening in London this weekend for the BMA's junior doctor conference.

The agreement to resume talks 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 Mr Hunt threatening to impose the controversial contract.

The resumption of negotiations was brokered by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Junior doctors stopped providing emergency care for the first time in NHS history during their most recent walkout.

More than 125,000 appointments and operations were cancelled and will need to be rearranged, on top of almost 25,000 procedures cancelled during previous action.

A spokesman for Acas said: "Acas talks have adjourned and will reconvene in the morning tomorrow."

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