England’s doctors agree to five-day pay dispute truce

The British Medical Association (BMA) has agreed to a five-day truce in the dispute over a new junior doctors’ contract that is being imposed by the government, which led to medics going on strike for two days last week.

The BMA said it has agreed to the truce, which was proposed yesterday by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC), an umbrella organisation representing the healthcare professions, and agreed to re-enter negotiations with the Department of Health (DH).

The DH initially refused to lift the imposition of the contract for the five-day truce period as requested by the AoMRC, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt has since written to the BMA agreeing to temporarily halt imposition of the contract while the talks are ongoing.

According to reports, the strike led to 80% of England’s junior doctors stopping work to protest outside 150 hospitals, with almost 13,000 operations being cancelled and 113,000 outpatient appointments being postponed. The BMA’s junior doctors committee will decide what further action to take in the dispute in a meeting on Saturday.

The pay dispute centres around government plans to create a ‘truly seven-day’ National Health Service promised by the Conservative Party before it won last year’s general election.

A key part of the plans was the new contract for junior doctors, including changes to pay and working hours. The dispute over the changes to the contract has been ongoing since September.

The biggest issue is the number of hours junior doctors should work on Saturdays, and the pay rates they should receive for this work.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey, chair of the AoMRC, said: “A five-day pause without ‘ifs, buts or maybes’ and with both sides in the dispute publicly committing to a serious attempt to reach a resolution through genuine dialogue is obviously the only way out of this impasse.”

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: “The BMA would be prepared to agree to this proposal and temporarily suspend industrial action so that talks can resume with a mutually-agreed facilitator, if the government is also prepared to suspend the threat of imposition.”

A DH spokesperson said: “The BMA directly caused the introduction of new contracts after we agreed to suspend imposition last November, because they went back on their word to talk about Saturday pay.”

Photograph: Shutterstock

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