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BMA continues with strike threat despite conciliation talks taking place

The BMA is undertaking conciliatory talks with the Government on Thursday morning, but has refused to call off the strike action planned over the next month until the Government removes the threat to impose a contract.

In a U-turn on Wednesday, the Government agreed to enter conciliatory talks with over the impending junior doctors strike, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week refused the BMA’s offer on talks.

Dr Porter said it was ‘encouraging’ that the Government had agreed to enter conciliation talks, and the talks are to take place at 10am on Thursday.

However, he said that it would not call off the strike until the Government removed the threat of a contract imposition.

The BMA has consistently said it would enter negotiations only if the Department of Health made commitments to not impose a contract, to ensure that safeguards around working hours remained, and to ensure that no junior doctors suffered a pay cut as a result of the changes.

It is also calling for Saturday and evening working to be rewarded above standard weekday hours.

The Government had been unwilling to give such guarantees, and junior doctors were forced to call off negotiations as a result.

The BMA held a ballot for industrial action earlier this month, which resulted in 98% of junior doctors voting in favour of full strike action.

The first action - which would see junior doctors continuing to provide emergency care - is scheduled for 1 December, followed by a full walk-out from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday 8 December, and another at the same time on Wednesday 16 December.

The planned action is in contrast to the industrial action held in 2012 in protest at the pensions changes, during which doctors continued to provide emergency care.

In a bid to stave off this action, Mr Hunt wrote on Wednesday: ’Patient safety has been my absolute priority through my tenure as health secretary. The extreme action planned in December poses a serious threat to that safety.

’Whilst I believe the right thing to do is to return to the negotiating table directly, it is very clear that any talks are better than strikes, so in the first instance I am very happy for my officials and NHS Employers to commence those talks during ACAS conciliation services.’

The BMA said that it was only informed of the offer at the same time as the media.

Responding to the letter, Dr Mark Porter said: ’It is encouraging that Jeremy Hunt has made a significant shift in accepting the BMA’s offer of conciliatory talks through Acas, finally recognising the fact that trust has broken down between junior doctors and the government.

’However, junior doctors and the public, who by now will be used to Jeremy Hunt’s political game playing, will not be surprised by the fact that he has waited until now to do the right thing.

’We hope to start these talks as soon as possible in order to reach a collaborative agreement for the benefit of patients and the NHS. Importantly, Jeremy Hunt must finally remove his threat of imposition in order to defer Tuesday’s industrial action.’

The BMA has since confirmed that the talks have been arranged.

 Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee and a former GP, broke the news of the Government’s U-turn to Pulse earlier today.

She said: ’It would be a good idea for the BMA to show goodwill. Many junior doctors who have spoken to me have said they do not want to go on strike. Now would absolutely be the right time to suspend strike action.’

Readers' comments (30)

  • Interesting that it wasn't Mr Hunt announcing ACAS talks, especially after refusing this earlier in the week.

    98% vote made all the difference, something tired and jaded GPs need to ensure they take heed of.

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  • United we stand, divided we fall.

    Remember the main battle is Consultant and GP contract in terms of money saved.

    Whitehall was testing public perception before squashing GP and Consultant contracts.

    The battle is over but the war will go on!

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  • Hurrah ! The big nobs have got round a table and yanked the iron out of fire . ( Blackadder goes forth)

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  • A delaying tactic until spring .

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  • Can we have the junior doctor negotiators please?

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  • As chair of Doctors in Unite (MPU) please take the point that a battle has been won but the war is not over. The NHS is in such a financial hole that the government will not stop in forcing wages down.

    This is an old ploy from governments of both Parties. They give a little, stop the strike and then come back with something often worse as the will to fight ebbs away. STAY STRONG - PUSH TO KEEP THE STRIKE DATES. This will add pressure to any talks
    Ron Singer

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  • T Roscoe

    Unbelievable that this huge bit of news is announced by a junior minister to a GP newspaper.

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  • Too early to claim any sort of victory.

    Persist with strike until acceptable agreement reached. The time for talking has passed.

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  • Sarah Wollaston isnt a health minister, but chair of the cross party committee for health. As such she was elected because MPs from other parties wanted her, and that was probably because they thought that she was likely to cause more trouble for Hunt et all, because she has been quite out spoken ie over Lansleys "reforms"
    So even more interesting that she was the one to announce this.
    Hunt apparently was wanting to move from Health ... he may get his wish.
    But Wollaston to replace him??
    Stranger thinks have happened .. the appointment of Simon Stevens .. Labour Party adviser in the 1990s

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  • Wollaston says that Cameron says that the government will enter talks.

    Why no word from Jeremy?

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