Junior doctor dispute to go to talks at Acas

Doctors protesting Image copyright AP

The government has agreed to talks at Acas in the junior doctors' dispute - but strikes have not been called off.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was willing to go to the conciliation service after initially refusing when the strike ballot results were revealed last week.

He said the industrial action, due to start next week, should be cancelled to "avoid harming vulnerable patients".

But the British Medical Association said the strikes would take place.

The first day of action is Tuesday, starting at 08:00 and lasting 24 hours.

What is Acas?

Acas is an independent body that can help parties - normally an employer and unions - resolve employment disputes.

There are several services offered, including arbitration where Acas is asked to make a decision in the dispute.

But the two sides involved here have been talking about conciliation, which means Acas is just being asked to host the talks rather than make binding recommendations.

Want to know more about the dispute?

In a letter to BMA leader Dr Mark Porter, Mr Hunt said it was time to "work together" in the long-running dispute over the new junior doctors contract.

He said he was "disappointed" that the BMA had refused to agree to the offer he had put forward, adding: "The extreme strike action planned in December poses a serious threat to that safety."

But the letter does not make any mention of dropping his threat to impose the contract from next summer - a key sticking point for the BMA.

That has prompted the union to refuse to call off the strike.

Dr Porter said: "We hope to start these talks as soon as possible in order to reach a collaborative agreement for the benefit of patients and the NHS.

"Importantly, Jeremy Hunt must finally remove his threat of imposition in order to defer Tuesday's industrial action."

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