Ministers have has said they will “pause” the introduction of the junior doctors contracts for five days – which had been due to begin on Monday – in an attempt to resolve the junior doctors’ dispute.
The Government have said they are willing to accept a proposal from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges which will see the BMA postpone further strikes on the condition they can re-open conversations over Saturday working.
The chairwoman of the Academy said a delay is the “only way out” of the current deadlock.
“A five-day pause without ‘ifs, buts or maybes’, and with both sides in the dispute publicly committing to a serious attempt to reach a resolution through genuine dialogue, is obviously the only way out of this impasse.”
Heidi Alexander said the proposals were a “sensible and reasonable proposal” but criticised Hunt’s handling over the dispute until now.
“From start to finish Jeremy Hunt’s handling of these negotiations has been shambolic. He has alienated a generation of junior doctors and left them feeling like they have no other way to get their voice heard than taking industrial action.
“It’s time Jeremy Hunt did the right thing for patients. His intransigence is doing deep and lasting damage to the NHS and he must find a way to resolve this.”
Junior doctors have been protesting the new contracts for several months, escalating their industrial action from refusing to provide routine care to last week’s strikes also including emergency and intensive services. Leadership duo Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell joined the demonstration in order to add to the pressure on Jeremy Hunt.
The doctors have also raised the possibility of an open-ended strike or mass resignations if the Health Secretary does not back down over the plans.
The new contracts see “core hours” being extended from 7am-7pm to 7am-10pm, and Saturday also being classified as a normal working day. The contracts also penalise those who take time out of their career, for example to do research of to care for children. Junior Doctors have said the changes will result in doctors being too tired to provide the level of care necessary.