A breakthrough agreement has been reached between the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government over a new contract for junior doctors.
Arbitration service Acas announced today that a deal had been reached after 10 days of talks aimed at preventing a summer of strikes.
But the deal will now be put to a ballot of BMA members, which means that it could still end up being rejected by doctors in England.
Nevertheless an agreement in principle between the two sides represents a major step forward in a long-running dispute that culminated in the first all-out junior doctor strike in NHS history last month.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has hailed the “significant agreement”, stating that the contract changes will “deliver a safer seven-day NHS”.
He said: “The talks have been constructive and positive and highlighted many areas outside the contract where further work is necessary to value the vital role of junior doctors and improve the training and support they are given.
“This deal represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors and for the NHS as a whole.”
Under the deal, Saturdays and Sundays will be paid at a normal rate between 9am and 9pm, with extra pay overnight seven days a week. This represents a significant shift on the position held by the BMA in previous talks.
To compensate for losing money on the weekend day shift, doctors will receive a percentage of their annual salary, ranging from three to 10 per cent, for working more than six weekends in a year.
Any shift which starts at or after 8pm and lasts more than eight hours, and which finishes at or by 10am the following day, will result in an enhanced pay rate of 37 per cent for all hours worked.
Some elements of the new contract, if approved in the BMA’s ballot of junior doctors, will be implemented in August and all junior doctors will move on to the new terms between October and August 2017.
Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA’s junior doctor committee chair, said: “Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.
“I believe that what has been agreed today delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high-quality care for patients.”
Both sides will work together over the next fortnight to finalise the communications with BMA members on all the details of the agreement before a ballot is launched.