Junior doctor contract negotiations have resolved all significant outstanding disagreements except that over unsocial hours pay, the Department of Health has said.
An update on negotiations from DH lead negotiator Sir David Dalton said ‘substantial progress’ had been made during talks on ’a large number of areas’, including agreements on safety, education and training.
But he added that the ‘substantive areas’ where they had not reached agreement were ’about pay’, with the key area of difference remaining ’payment for unsocial hours in the evenings and on Saturday’.
This followed the BMA’s announcement that it is going ahead with another day of strikes next week Wednesday after ongoing negotiations have failed.
Sir David said he had ‘confirmed’ the DH’s ‘latest offer’ that unsocial hours premium pay to start at 9pm Monday to Friday and from 5pm on Saturdays but that the BMA had rejected the offer.
He wrote: ’I believe that these movements on the employers’ side are reasonable and they evidence our willingness to be flexible and responsive. Disappointingly, the BMA restated that they would not negotiate on this issue – and would not concede to any plain time working on Saturdays.’
However, a BMA said it had seen ’no willingness’ on the Government’s part to move on the ‘core issue’.
A BMA spokesperson said: ’Unsocial hours has been a key sticking point throughout the negotiations and has not been resolved. We have talked in good faith with the Government over the past few months, but have seen no willingness on their part to move on a core issue for junior doctors up and down the country.
’The Government misrepresents junior doctors as a block to a seven-day NHS, but they already work every day of the week. What we are asking is that this is reflected in fair and affordable recognition of unsocial hours.’
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt wrote to BMA chair Dr Mark Porter to say he too found it ‘very disappointing’ that the BMA ‘felt unable to negotiate’ on the ‘significant offer’.
He said: ’Our door remains open and I hope that you will continue to reflect on the value of further discussions. In particular, I would welcome your assurance that you are willing to discuss plain time working hours, as set out in the joint agreement with ACAS in November.’