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Government and junior doctors explore mediation to break ‘logjam’

Published on: 16 May 2024

Ministers and junior doctors have agreed to explore mediation in a move that could end months of strike action over pay.

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that a preferred mediator has been found with the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, with both parties now in the process of engaging with them.

It comes after junior doctors in England voted overwhelmingly to extend their strike mandate for a further six months. BMA members also stated they were prepared to take part in industrial action that was short of striking.

The BMA’s new mandate will last until 19 September, close to the likely beginning of a general election campaign.

Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, 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 break the logjam.

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

The government has previously offered a further increase worth 3 per cent of pay in cash terms, in addition to an 8.8 per cent average increase that was given last summer.

However, junior doctors are calling for pay restoration back to 2008 levels. The BMA claims the real-term value of their pay has declined by more than a quarter since then.

NHS England has already warned pay rises of more than 2 per cent this year would risk cuts to staffing and activity if there was no additional government funding to support it.

Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins said she wants to “pursue all avenues to resolve the dispute”.

She added: “I am pleased the BMA [has] agreed to explore mediation and I am hopeful that it will provide a way forward.”

Last month, medical consultants in England voted to accept the government’s pay offer.

Meanwhile, the NHS pay review body is due to report back shortly with its recommendations for the 2024-25 pay round.