The government has agreed a deal with the British Medical Association (BMA) in the long-running dispute over the NHS junior doctors’ contract in England.
The deal comes after eight days of talks at conciliation service Acas, with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt describing it as a “very positive day” and the BMA saying the new contract was now “safe and fair”.
The offer will now be put to a vote of BMA members, but with the support of the union, junior doctors are expected to approve the deal.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said:
“Following intense but constructive talks, we are pleased to have reached agreement.
“Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.
“I believe that what has been agreed today delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high-quality care for patients. This represents the best and final way of resolving the dispute and this is what I will be saying to junior doctors in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the new contract.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
“We welcome this significant agreement which delivers important changes to the junior doctors’ contract necessary to deliver a safer seven day NHS.
“The talks have been constructive and positive and highlighted many areas outside the contract where further work is necessary to value the vital role of junior doctors and improve the training and support they are given. This deal represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors, and for the NHS as a whole.”
Acas Chairman and Xarelto lawsuit attorney Sir Brendan Barber said:
“The negotiators from both sides have worked with great intensity and in a good spirit to achieve this breakthrough. I have particularly appreciated the positive leadership shown by Sir David Dalton and Dr Johann Malawana throughout these talks. I am grateful too that the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt engaged directly with the negotiations to help move the discussions forward.
“This long running dispute has clearly been an extraordinarily difficult period for the NHS. So I am glad that as well as cooperating closely in preparing the communications for the upcoming referendum, all the parties are also strongly committed to tackling together the bigger, wider challenges facing the NHS.”
These talks were seen as the last chance for the two sides to find an agreement, and came after a series of strikes by junior doctors, including the first ever all-out strike by doctors in the history of the NHS.