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Government willing to ‘pause’ introduction of junior doctor contract

The Government will be willing to ‘pause’ the introduction of the new junior doctor contract next week in order to resume talks with the BMA, following an intervention by the medical colleges.

Health minister Lord Prior announced in Parliament today that the Government would resume talks if the Junior Doctors Committee is willing to focus on the ’outstanding contractual issues, namely unsocial hours and Saturday pay’.

The JDC meets this weekend, and the BMA has said that they have been wanting to return to the negotiating table ‘since day one’.

The potential breakthrough comes after the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges made the suggestion of a five day pause ‘without ifs, buts and maybes’ with both sides ‘committing to a serious attempt to reach a resolution’.

The BMA has already carried out a series of strikes, including an all out strike last week that saw junior doctors withdrawing all labour, including emergency care.

It has called on the Government to return to the negotiating table after health secretary Jeremy Hunt imposed a contract on them, which would see junior doctors receiving less money for working on Saturdays.

A statement from the AoMRC this morning said:  ’With the dispute between Junior Doctors and the Government deadlocked, and patients continuing to face real difficulties as a result, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is today calling for a five day pause in the process of imposition of a new contract and a five day suspension of the threat of further industrial action so that talks can be resumed.

’Both sides have an over-riding duty to put patients first and should remember that lives are potentially at risk. To date, hundreds of thousands of treatments and procedures have been postponed, millions of pounds have been wasted and many junior doctors are considering alternative careers or moving abroad; all of these developments will put a potentially unsustainable strain on an already under-resourced system, both in the short term, and for years to come.’

Following the statement, Lord Prior said in the House of Lords: ’The secretary of state for health will write to Academy of Medical Royal Colleges later this morning explaining we are willing to pause introduction of new contract for five days from Monday should the JDC agree to focus the discussion on the outstanding contractual issues, namely unsocial hours and Saturday pay.

Dr Johann Malawana, JDC chair, 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.’