Hunt to pause junior doctor contract imposition if BMA opens Saturday pay talks

The government has said it will suspend the imposition of the junior doctors contract for five days from Monday if the BMA agrees to suspend strike action and negotiate on Saturday pay.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has written to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges agreeing to their proposal for both sides to agree to new talks on condition that the BMA agrees to negotiate Saturday pay and unsocial hours.

The royal colleges called for a five-day suspension of the contract imposition and further strike action so that talks could be resumed.

Mr Hunt said the government remained 'committed to the introduction of a new contract', but that the government was 'willing to play our part' in the proposed five-day negotiating period.

Junior doctor contract

'We will pause introduction of the new contract for five days from Monday should the junior doctors committee agree to return to talks,' he said.

Mr Hunt said he would expect new talks to focus on the outstanding issues from February's Acas talks, unsocial hours and Saturday pay.

'Talks should not proceed,' Mr Hunt added, 'unless we have written agreement from the junior doctors committee (JDC) that they will agree to negotiate substantively and in good faith on this single biggest outstanding area of disagreement and that they would ratify and recommend a negotiated agreement to their members.'

The government has previously accused the BMA of refusing to negotiate on Saturday pay.

JDC chairman Dr Johann Malawana said: 'Junior doctors have said since the outset that we want to reach a negotiated agreement, and have repeatedly urged the government to re-enter talks.

'As suggested by the Academy, we are keen to restart talks with an open mind. It is critical to find a way forward on all the outstanding issues - which are more than just pay - and hope that a new offer is made that can break the impasse.'

Earlier, the BMA said it would agree to the academy's proposal if the government lifts the threat to impose a new contract on junior doctors.

Junior doctor strikes

In response to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges plan, Dr Malawana said: ‘No junior doctor ever wanted it to reach this point. We have said since day one that we wanted to reach a negotiated agreement, and have repeatedly urged the government to re-enter talks.

‘The government itself has admitted that there are serious, outstanding issues with the proposed contract. As such, the BMA would be prepared to agree to this proposal and temporarily suspend industrial action so that talks can resume with a mutually agreed facilitator, if the government is also prepared to suspend the threat of imposition.’

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges chairwoman Professor Dame Sue Bailey said: ‘A five-day pause without "ifs, buts or maybes" and with both sides in the dispute publicly committing to a serious attempt to reach a resolution through genuine dialogue is obviously the only way out of this impasse.’

The Academy, representing all 22 royal colleges and faculties said both sides in the dispute had an overriding duty to put patients first and ‘should remember that lives are potentially at risk’.

The colleges said they were unanimously calling on Mr Hunt and Dr Malawana to ‘take a deep breath, dial down the rhetoric and get back to the table for talks facilitated, perhaps, by a senior independent figure’.

DH has previously reject calls by the BMA to suspend the imposition in return for a suspension of industrial action. In a letter to the JDC in response to an eleventh hour appeal to avert last month’s full walkouts Mr Hunt said: ‘It is not now possible to change or delay the introduction of this contract without creating unacceptable disruption for the NHS.’

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