The Scalpel's Blog

18.05.16

Junior doctors’ announcement expected today

The dispute over junior doctors’ contracts could finally reach a resolution, with an announcement from talks expected later today.

The talks between the government and the British Medical Association (BMA), brokered by the Royal Medical Colleges, began last week and have been extended until the end of today.

Before they began, health secretary Jeremy Hunt had to commit to suspending imposition of the contract, while the BMA agreed to suspend plans for further strike action.

The Guardian quoted insider sources as saying that the talks had “gone well” and were “nearly there”.

It also suggested that the BMA would concede on the principle of Saturday working until 1pm, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt would agree to end a legal anomaly that means doctors aren’t granted whistleblower protection.

At last weekend’s junior doctors’ conference Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, expressed tentative optimism about the talks, saying they were taking place with “a spirit of constructive engagement”.

However, in her speech at the conference Professor Jane Dacre, the president of the Royal College of Physicians London, warned that doctors were being forced to “stretch to a seven-day service in the future when we can barely do a five-day one”, suggesting the BMA remain opposed to the idea.

She cited recent studies casting doubt on the ‘weekend effect’, where death rates increase because of a lack of seven-day care.

If a resolution can finally be achieved in the dispute, it will hopefully mark an end to the junior doctors’ strikes which have hit the NHS since February and the threat of further strikes or even an indefinite walkout in the future.

However, as any new contract is introduced, the debate about its impact on services is unlikely to be over anytime soon.

(Image c. Philip Toscano from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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