The health secretary is set to make a statement to parliament at 11.45 on Thursday, just a day after thousands of junior doctors joined 160 pickets across England in protest over the government's proposed new contract.
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Sir David Dalton, who has been leading negotiations for the government, wrote to Mr Hunt today proposing that the government should do 'whatever it deems necessary' to end uncertainty over the junior doctor contract.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens issued a statement backing imposition of the latest contract offer rejected by the BMA.
Junior doctor contract
Sir David wrote: 'Everyone’s first preference has always been for a negotiated outcome. Unfortunately this no longer seems possible. Following consultation with chief executives and other leaders in the service, it is clear that the NHS needs certainty on this contract and that a continuation of a dispute, with a stalemate and without any clear ending, would be harmful to service continuity, with adverse consequences to patients.
'On this basis I therefore advise the government to do whatever it deems necessary to end uncertainty for the service and to make sure that a new contract is in place which is as close as possible to the final position put forward to the BMA yesterday. I can confirm that this position is supported by both the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, together with support from chief executives across the country.'
Mr Stevens said: 'Junior doctors play a critical role in the NHS, work incredibly hard in high pressure roles, and have a range of legitimate non-pay concerns about their training. These now have to be comprehensively addressed by hospitals, the medical royal colleges, and the national training bodies.
'But drawn out industrial action over contracts and pay would mean further disruption to patients who are relying on NHS care, with thousands more operations cancelled and check-ups delayed. That’s why Sir David Dalton – one of the health service’s most experienced and fair minded hospital leaders – was called in to negotiate a fair and workable settlement, and it’s why it’s incredibly disappointing that he has today reported that there is "no realistic prospect of a negotiated agreement".
'Under these highly regrettable and entirely avoidable circumstances, hospitals are rightly calling for an end to the uncertainty, and the implementation of the compromise package the Dalton team are recommending.'