Deadline nears for doctors’ strike talks

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JUNIOR doctors are being told to prepare for strike action as a dispute over their contracts continues.

Thousands of NHS staff in the area and across the country were expected to take industrial action in December but the strikes were called off after new talks were agreed.

But the British Medical Association (BMA) has said an agreement with the Government needs to be reached by Monday or they will begin notifying the NHS of its intentions to take industrial action.

Hundreds of routine operations were cancelled in Wigan in December as health services prepared for junior doctors to provide only emergency cover for one 24-hour period and stage two full walkouts.

The return to the negotiating table delayed the strikes but the BMA has retained the right to hold industrial action before January 13 if an agreement is not reached by 4pm on Monday.

According to the Guardian, Dr Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, told his members that while “significant ground has been made ... there are still some areas of absolute disagreement”.

He said: “It is therefore absolutely clear that should we not be able to reach an acceptable outcome by 4pm on January 4, the BMA will need to commence serving notice as per its mandate, to the NHS, for industrial action the following week.”

But Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, which is working with the Government, has criticised the BMA.

He said: “Sensitive negotiations are not a spectator sport and I still do not propose to provide a running commentary on their progress.

“I am disappointed therefore that this BMA communication has unexpectedly appeared.

“Talks with the BMA about the proposed new contract for junior doctors have been adjourned until January 4 and 5, though work to refine details is continuing in the interim between members of our teams.

“We believed that we have seen progress and we will resume discussions in the new year.”