Health

Junior doctors to decide on NHS contract talks

Junior doctors on strike Image copyright PA

Junior doctor representatives at the British Medical Association (BMA) will meet later to decide whether to hold talks with the government over a disputed new NHS employment contract.

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

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

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges says there should be no preconditions.

The government says it is willing to pause the introduction of the junior doctors' contract in England for five days to allow for talks.

The BMA agreed in principle to the idea of restarting talks and also to a possible deferral of any new threat of strikes for five days.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym quoted a source as saying the government's preconditions were seen as a complicating factor but that there would be "clarity about the next steps by the end of the day".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jeremy Hunt has said he will introduce the new employment contracts, despite their unpopularity

On Thursday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We've already made three significant compromises on Saturday pay but what we can't do is have a system where hospitals can't afford to roster enough doctors on a Saturday."

Mr Hunt had 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.

Between January and early April there were four strikes by junior doctors in England affecting routine but not urgent care.

Last week, there were two one-day strikes affecting all forms of care, including emergencies - the first such action in the history of the NHS.

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