Hunt appoints Dalton to engage with junior doctors to avoid strikes
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has appointed one of his “most respected trust chief executives”, Salford Royal’s Sir David Dalton, to take talks forward with junior doctors on behalf of the government.
In a letter written yesterday to Dr Mark Porter, BMA Council Chair, after the association called the delayed strikes back on, Hunt said the appointment would “facilitate further constructive discussion”.
“In the negotiations he will partner with NHS Employers and be assisted by a wider group of trust chief executives and medical directors. He has a reputation for engaging with staff and stands ready to work with you to agree a fair settlement for doctors and patients,” the secretary of state said.
Dalton has been at the forefront of plans to accelerate the pipeline of would-be foundation trusts, publishing a government-commissioned review in late 2014 on the subject. NHE has also spoken to the chief executive for our latest November/December edition about radical proposals to turn groups of foundation trusts into accountable care organisations, which could even take on commissioning responsibilities.
According to Hunt, the parties had resolved 14 or 15 of the 16 issues they set out to discuss during the Acas meeting on 30 November – such as sticking points around maximum working hours and measures to improve the quality and experience of training for junior doctors.
“On the final unresolved issue of pay for weekend working, we remain willing to show flexibility and negotiate in good faith,” Hunt continued. “It is therefore highly unfortunate that your team were not willing to discuss any compromise on this issue even though we have made clear that pay will be protected for all doctors working within contracted maximum hours.”
Speaking to the BBC this morning, Hunt lamented that junior doctors “walked out” of yesterday’s meeting after less than an hour, after which they reinstated December’s strike threats. Despite the walkout, he believed parties had been “making very good progress”.
But junior doctors accused him of “typical spin”, claiming that it was not just the issue of pay that needed to be resolved.
If strikes go ahead as planned, a 24-hour walkout will take place on 12 January from 8am, with junior doctors only providing emergency care. This will be followed by a second 48-strike from 26 January, also with emergency care coverage, and finished off with a full walkout on 10 February.
Acas has invited all sides involved in the dispute to meet for more talks this Friday (8 January) from 10am.
More than 1,000 NHS staff have also signed a letter, published in the Independent, signalling their support for junior doctors "during this difficult time".
(Top image David Dalton c. MAHSC)