Junior doctors and Government enter ‘mediated talks’ in bid to end pay dispute

15 May 2024, 21:04

A doctor on strike
Industrial strike. Picture: PA

Strikes by junior doctors have caused disruption to the NHS in England for more than a year.

Junior doctors in England have entered “mediated talks” with the Government with a view to ending a long-running dispute over pay.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that its junior doctors’ committee had entered a new “intensive phase of talks” with the Government which is being facilitated by an external mediator.

Junior doctors have staged a series of walkouts over the past year as part of a campaign by the BMA calling for pay restoration.

In a statement, co-chairs of the committee Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We have been in dispute for more than a year with the Government over declining junior doctor pay, exploring various avenues to try and resolve it.

“We have been looking at ways of restoring trust between parties and believe that an independent mediator can help break the logjam.

“We hope to reach a credible solution as soon as possible”

The union said on X, formerly Twitter, that it hoped that the talks would “break the logjam and gain a credible pay offer for 23/24”.

The Department for Health and social Care said that both parties had agreed a “preferred mediator”.

A doctor on a picket line
Junior doctors in England have staged 10 rounds of strike action since the dispute began (PA)

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “My duty is to patients and I want to pursue all avenues to resolve the dispute with the BMA junior doctors’ committee.

“This will ensure they can focus on delivering the highest quality care and help consolidate our recent progress on waiting lists.

“I am pleased the BMA have agreed to explore mediation and I am hopeful that it will provide a way forward”.

Officials said that junior doctors had already been given a pay rise of up to 10.3% for the last financial year through the pay review body process and that the Government has “made clear that further investment was available to resolve the dispute”.

Commenting on the news, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This agreement from the BMA and the Government to enter mediation is a hugely positive step following what feels like a period of relative calm in terms of the serious dispute.

“NHS leaders and patients will be hopeful of a resolution.

“At the same time NHS leaders also accept that there are a series of actions that they must take to improve the working lives of doctors. The clear focus being given to this issue by Amanda Pritchard reinforces the importance of this, alongside whatever resolution the Prime Minister and Secretary of State can reach with the BMA and its members.”

Junior doctors have staged 10 rounds of strike action since the dispute began.

The latest ballot of medics suggested that they had no plans to end the walkouts after 98% voted to continue strike action.

Doctors also approved the use of action short of strikes.

Junior doctors on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital, central London in February
Junior doctors stand on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital, central London in February (PA)

The health service has been beset by strikes for more than a year, with walkouts from a number of different staff including doctors, nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists.

NHS England said in March that, since strikes began in December 2022, some 1,424,269 inpatient and outpatient appointments had been rescheduled.

The last strike by junior doctors – from February 24 to 28 this year – led to 91,048 appointments, operations and procedures being postponed.

By Press Association