Junior doctor contract: BMA to re-enter talks with government

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The British Medical Association has said it will re-enter talks with the government over outstanding contract issues for junior doctors in England.

The union says these include Saturday pay and a fair contract that does not discriminate against women and others.

BMA junior doctors' committee chairman Johann Malawana said he hoped "real progress" could now be made.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday he wanted written agreement the talks would be held in good faith.

Ministers said they would re-start talks if they could focus on Saturday pay and unsocial hours.

Mr Hunt had previously accused the BMA of refusing to negotiate over Saturday pay and said he would press on with introducing the contract.

The BMA said there were wider unresolved issues over working hours and it was unfair to impose a contract rather than continue discussions.

It agreed to temporarily suspend planned industrial action in an attempt to reach a compromise.

'Recruitment and retention'

Dr Malawana said: "The BMA has agreed to re-enter talks with the government on outstanding issues in this dispute, which include, but are not limited to, unsocial hours.

"Junior doctors' concerns extend far beyond pay, and our principle in talks will be to deliver a fair contract that does not discriminate against women or any other group, one which addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS and which provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.

"The BMA will also call for any contract offer - agreed or not - to be put to a referendum of junior doctors, as is usual following a contract negotiation.

"We hope that with both parties back around the negotiating table, real progress can now be made to ending this dispute through talks."

Negotiations over the contract broke down in February and junior doctors have staged several strikes since then.

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image captionThe first four strikes in 2016 all involved emergency cover being provided, before the all-out stoppages on 26 and 27 April

A Department of Health spokesman said it "welcomed the BMA's decision to return to talks" and that it had always wanted to see a "negotiated solution".

"From Monday we will be looking for resolution on the small number of outstanding issues that separated both parties in February, principally Saturday pay, but also other issues that affect the motivation, recruitment and retention of junior doctors," he said.

Last month, for the first time in the history of the NHS, junior doctors went on all-out strike and stopped providing routine and emergency care.

The latest poll by Ipsos MORI for the BBC suggested the majority of the public still backed junior doctors, although support was not as high after it became an all-out stoppage.

Asked whether they supported junior doctors striking while not providing emergency cover, 57% of those questioned said they did and 26% said they were opposed.

How the dispute reached stalemate

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  • Talks broke down in January and after a final take-it-or-leave it offer from government was rejected by the BMA in February, ministers announced the contract would be imposed
  • It will reduce the amount paid for weekend work, but basic pay is being increased
  • The BMA wants a more generous weekend pay allowance than that on offer and more investment for more seven-day services
  • Two legal challenges are being pursued by doctors against the imposition
  • Hospitals are pushing ahead with the new contract - offers are expected to go out in May
  • The government is refusing to reopen talks, arguing it made compromises earlier in the year but the BMA did not
  • The first four strikes in 2016 all involved emergency cover being provided, before the all-out stoppages on 26 and 27 April

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