Junior doctors' strike to go ahead after government talks end

Junior doctors on strike Image copyright PA

A strike by junior doctors in England will go ahead on Wednesday after last-minute talks ended with no resolution.

The Department of Health said informal talks with the British Medical Association had finished for the day.

The second 24-hour walk-out will begin at 08:00 GMT, with NHS England saying 1,150 planned inpatient procedures and 1,734 day procedures will be cancelled.

It comes as fresh details emerge about how close the two sides got on a deal during failed Acas talks in January.

The BBC understands the British Medical Association (BMA) put forward a proposal that would have seen doctors' basic pay rise by about half the 11% offered by ministers in return for Saturday not to be treated as a normal working day.

The union argued it would have been cost neutral, meaning the government would not pay any more than the £5bn currently spent on junior doctor salaries.

The offer was rejected and during a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Labour MP Justin Madders asked Mr Hunt whether he had personally blocked an agreement.

Mr Hunt did not directly answer the question, but said the BMA was the "only reason" a solution has not been found.

Sources close to the talks have told the BBC that the proposal was put to the government, but did not leave enough flexibility for rostering more doctors on at weekends - one of the main reasons the government wants to renegotiate the contract.

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Doctors maintain that the strike will cause minimal disruption to patients.

In preparation for Wednesday, more than 2,800 routine operations, such as knee and hip replacements, have already been cancelled.

Dr Anne Rainsberry, of NHS England, said: "The NHS is doing everything possible to minimise the impact of this regrettable strike which will delay care for thousands of patients at a time of year when service pressures across the health service are already at their highest.

"We will monitor the situation across the country to ensure plans are in place, and people are ready to respond to any significant increases in pressure in any region over the period of this strike."

During the first strike in January, 4,000 operations had to be cancelled - about one in 10 of the total.

In response to the last-minute talks taking place, the BMA said: "As things stand, no further movement has been made by government and industrial action planned for tomorrow will go ahead."

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