Junior doctor representatives and the government are returning to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in an attempt to avert industrial action planned for 12 January 2016.
Junior doctors in England plan to provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on 12 January unless the dispute over their new contract is resolved.
Strike action was called off before Christmas following a truce between the British Medical Association (BMA), NHS Employers and the government, and negotiations were resumed.
But on 4 January 2016, the BMA announced that the strike would go ahead as originally planned after fresh talks had failed to reach an agreement.
“After weeks of further negotiations it is clear that the government is not taking junior doctors’ concerns seriously,” says Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council.
Porter says he regrets the disruption the strike will cause but says junior doctors have no other option.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has referred the dispute to ACAS, says agreement was reached on 15 of the 16 issues at the centre of the dispute.
“On the final unresolved issue of pay for weekend working, we remain willing to show flexibility and negotiate in good faith. It is therefore highly unfortunate that your team were not willing to discuss any compromise on this issue even though we have made clear that pay will be protected for all doctors working within contracted maximum hours,” Hunt says in a letter to Porter on 4 January 2016.
Further industrial action is planned for 48 hours between 26 and 28 January 2016, when junior doctors will provide emergency care only and an all-out strike is scheduled for 8am to 5pm on 10 February 2016.