Talks regarding the ongoing dispute over junior doctors contracts will continue, after the two sides in the dispute were unable to come to a resolution.
The parties have failed to reach a settlement this week, despite three days of talks aimed at reaching a compromise in the contractual wrangle which has already continued for several months.
Following all-out strikes by junior doctors last month, including withdrawal of emergency care, health secretary Jeremy Hunt paused the imposition of the contract to hold an extra five days of negotiations.
But a statement from Acas, the employer advice organisation leading the talks between NHS Employers and the BMA, today said talks will now continue until Wednesday next week.
Junior doctors, and the organisations which represent them in the NHS, have been strongly critical of the new contract.
Pay and conditions of doctors has been a major concern, but some believe that patients will also be put at risk by the new contractual terms.
This continues to be a major sticking point, with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisting that he will impose the contract on doctors regardless of their strong opposition to the terms.
Despite the contentious nature of the dispute, the conciliation service which has been called in to referee the discussion suggested that time was running out for the two sites to reach an agreement.
Acas chairman Sir Brendan Barber warned that this was “a strictly time limited extension” representing “a final opportunity to find an agreement’ to resolve the “difficult dispute”.
“The talks have been conducted in a constructive and positive atmosphere. In my judgement some real progress has been made to address outstanding issues. I reached the view however, in the last 24 hours, that a limited amount of additional time would be needed to give the process a chance of reaching a successful conclusion. I proposed to the secretary of state, and to the BMA, that the talks should be continued up until next Wednesday.”
While talks continue, the Government has agreed not to impose the junior doctor contract and the BMA has agreed not to stage further industrial action.
The disagreement over junior doctors’ contracts is just one in a longer line of problems facing the NHS and the government at present.
Financial woes have been particularly well documented, with NHS trusts having run up collective deficit in excess of £2.5 billion in the most recent financial year.
The NHS has also missed a wide variety of targets on a very regular basis recently, and it seems that there are massive fiscal and organisational issues facing the health service in the coming years.