Light at end of the tunnel for junior doctors’ dispute?

It would appear as though the junior doctors and Jeremy Hunt may have found a resolution to the ever-present contractual dispute.

Yesterday it was announced that a middle ground had been found between the BMA, the junior doctors’ representatives, and the department of health. They reached this point through conciliation talks over the past 10 days and the result reflects the extension in deadline to find a compromise by close of play 17 May 2016.

Whilst the light may appear visible at the end of this ongoing debate the ‘agreement’ still has to pass a ballot of 40,000 BMA members. The talks have been described as fair to both parties and have seen the BMA and Government lessen their demands to an extent.

Some of the key agreements reached at the most recent round of negotiations were: –

·         Junior doctors not required to work more than one in every two weekends;

·         Overtime will be compensated by employers as either additional payment or holiday entitlement;

·         On call allowances will range from 18 per cent for doctors working one in two weekends to 8 per cent for doctors working one in eight weekends;

·         Rest period of 46 hours after three consecutive night shifts;

·         Basic pay rise reduced from 13.5% to 10-11%; and

·         Junior doctors to get important role on advising with independent guardians who assess doctors work schedules.

Despite failing to openly acknowledge the change to a more conciliatory tone the shift has been evident within Hunt’s camp in particular.  His position in relation to the imposition of the junior doctors’ contract which was taken in February has softened somewhat since in light of strike action and increased public pressure.

Whilst we now await the ballot to the BMA’s junior doctor members, they have spoken as one throughout these negotiations with 98% voting in favour of strikes last year. It remains to be determined whether the BMA members will view this compromise agreement as enough to warrant an end to these negotiations or push for more.

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