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28.09.16

BMA offers Hunt olive branch with invite to symposium on seven-day care

In an effort to move forward relations after the junior doctors’ contracts dispute, the British Medical Association (BMA) has invited health secretary Jeremy Hunt to a symposium on improving patient care throughout the week.

Hunt’s efforts to impose the contracts, which are key to the government policy of a seven-day NHS, have led to a series of strikes by junior doctors.

The BMA recently announced an unprecedented series of three five-day strikes, only to suspend the plans at the weekend.

In a letter to Hunt, Dr Mark Porter, the chair of the BMA council, and Dr Ellen McCourt, the chair of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said: “Over the past year, the issue of the quality and consistency of health care delivered across the week has been the subject of intense debate. 

“Many of the arguments have become polarised and so have not helped to engage the public and patients in the fundamental questions about the nature and scope of the care which we all expect from the health service now and into the future.”

They invited him “in good faith” to a symposium of “leading voices across healthcare, including health professionals and leaders, royal colleges, patient organisations and professional associations”, to be held in November if he agreed.

A Department of Health spokesperson expressed cautious support for the proposals, saying: “This is a helpful suggestion — and we look forward to discussing how to take it forward with the BMA in greater detail.”

The High Court is due to rule today on a judicial review from campaign group Justice for Health challenging Hunt’s decision to impose the contract.

Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “The RCP fully supports a seven-day service for very sick patients. We would welcome the opportunity to join a symposium to discuss the issues and barriers we face in achieving this aim and offer potential solutions.”

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges played a crucial role in the dispute, brokering talks between the BMA and the government, and warning that the five day strikes could harm patients.

(Image c. David Wilcock from PA Images)

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