Hopes have been raised that the junior doctors’ dispute will end after a “constructive” meeting between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Health Secretary.
The union, which is fighting for a 35 per cent pay rise for junior doctors, had become more militant, and previous talks with Steve Barclay broke down almost immediately.
But the Government described Monday’s meeting to discuss terms of contact as “constructive” and both sides agreed to meet again within days.
The BMA said there was “significant work to be done” to resolve the dispute with a spokesman saying the union was seeking “urgent progress” on the matter.
It is understood that Monday’s talks did not discuss any wage proposals, but that they talked about how to structure future discussions and the principles they should follow.
Previous talks last month broke down almost immediately, with the Government saying the BMA would not risk demanding a 35 per cent rise.
As a result, the union went on a four-day walkout, just after Easter.
However, the union has said the demand for 35 per cent is a “starting point”.
In recent days, the union has suggested that areas other than pay are ripe for reform, and Robert Laurenson, co-chairman of the junior doctors’ committee has suggested that working conditions and the way in which the rotation of medical practitioners is organized need more attention .
A BMA spokesman said: “BMA junior doctors’ committee negotiators have welcomed discussions this evening with Government negotiators, in preparation for talks aimed at resolving the current junior doctors’ dispute. There is significant work to be done, and the two parties will meet again in the coming days. We are looking for urgent progress.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government and the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee held constructive discussions this evening, in preparation for talks aimed at resolving the current junior doctors’ dispute. The two parties will meet again in the coming days.”
Unions accept a 5 percent pay rise
The talks come after the NHS Staff Council, which represents other major unions, voted in favor of a 5 per cent pay rise which will come into force next month.
Unions including Unison and GMB supported the move, which was opposed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The vote means nurses will get the rise, with a one-off payment of between £1,655 and £3800 for 2022/23.
However, the RCN has said it still intends to ballot nurses on further strike action, with plans for a national vote.
It follows months of devastating strikes that have seen more than 500,000 appointments and operations canceled across the NHS.
The RCN, which voted against implementing the offer during the meeting, said it was not enough for nurses and pledged to increase its industrial action.
Although the union voted against the agreement, its members will still receive the increase in their packages.
In a letter to Mr Barclay on Tuesday, Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said he will ballot 280,000 nurses in England regarding further strikes to take place between June and December.
The union will hold an aggregate ballot, meaning action could be taken across the whole of the NHS if the union gets enough support. However, it increases the risk of not reaching the threshold.
So far, strikes have only taken place across half of the trusts.
On Sunday and Monday night, nurses walked out at more than 100 trusts, including those in accident and emergency and cancer wards.