Talks that had recently been restarted following the previous refusal to negotiate further by Jeremy Hunt have been given more time to reach an agreement. It had been hoped that both sides could reach an agreement by the end of this week however this has now been extended to Wednesday 18 May 2016.
It has been stated that these talks are the final round of discussions that could potentially help conclude this long-running debate. The reason why these talks are seen as final is because contracts are usually sent out by hospitals by the end of May for contracts commencing in August- which is the point at which junior doctors contracts will be ‘imposed’.
As part of these reconvened talks the BMA agreed not to discuss strike action for the duration of the discussions and the Government agreed to hold the imposition of contracts.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel following the much downplayed climb-down from the secretary of state for Health’s stance on the ‘imposition’ of the contracts. The Government has also recently been forced down from its position in relation to forcing all schools to become academies. It is demonstrative of the difference in approach that might bear more fruit in relation to both junior doctors and schools more generally.
It has been reported that the main issue on the table for junior doctors in discussions this week is Saturday pay and it is hoped if both sides can come together on this issue, damaging further strike action on an already severely pressurised NHS can be avoided. At present the contract offered by the Government would see current Saturday hours paid as part of the normal working week and extra pay for Sunday working would be at a lower rate than currently offered. Hopefully a compromise that is agreeable to all sides of the debate, which has proved as yet impossible, can be reached by close of play Wednesday next week.