BMA negotiators have re-entered talks with Government about a proposed new contract for consultants in England, with doctors leaders committed to agreeing the ‘strongest offer possible’.
Talks were delayed during the protracted dispute between junior doctors and the Government but the Department of Health wants a new deal to come into effect next April and both parties have now returned to the negotiating table.
Any agreed contract would be put to members in a referendum — following a series of roadshows and engagement events to explain fully the proposed terms and conditions.
Doctors leaders hope to be able to finalise the offer in time for consultants to see details in the autumn.
BMA consultants committee chair Keith Brent said he would ‘push for the best possible deal’ and hoped the negotiations would be the final phase before finalising proposals.
Open to offers
In an email to members he says: ‘As you know, the BMA did not initiate these talks about a variation to the contract, but we have been open to explore what might be on offer.
'Whatever the Government seeks to introduce, we need to be in a position to influence what constitutes a safe and fair contract.’
The negotiations began in October 2013 after the Government decided the previous contract, agreed in 2003, would need to be changed to carry out its ‘seven-day services’ manifesto pledge.
The contract stipulates that consultants could only be asked to provide ‘routine work’ outside of 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, by agreement. The vast majority of consultants already carry out work at weekends.
The Government wishes for more work to be done during weekends and CC came to the view that negotiations could help them change other areas of the contract, including working patterns and pay scales, which needed to be improved.
BMA representatives toured England earlier in the year to discuss the negotiations with members and to receive feedback on the most important issues for doctors.
In members' interests
Dr Brent says: ‘This next stage of negotiations is taking place in the context of considerable Government turmoil and the recent vote by junior doctors not to accept a new contract offer.
'The BMA’s negotiating team remains committed to pressing home your interests to ensure the strongest offer possible for consultants in England.’
The Government has produced a set of clinical standards which form part of their ‘seven-day services’ plan — including that consultants should see all admissions within 14 hours, every patient daily unless specifically not needed, and patients on wards like the surgical assessment unit twice a day.
The BMA supports equal quality of care every day of the week but has called for investment for the extra consultants required, warning other services could be cut to pay for the Government’s plans otherwise.
That position was backed up by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which said more consultants and better resources and job planning would be needed when it proposed similar standards over seven-day care.
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