Health leaders have urged health secretary Steve Barclay to invite the mediator Acas to support negotiations with the BMA over the ongoing junior doctor strike.
Both the union and the Government have ‘incompatible pre-conditions’ for negotiation which has left both parties in a standoff, the NHS Confederation has said in a letter addressed to both.
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday claimed the BMA would need to withdraw its ‘unreasonable’ demand for a 35% pay increase.
But the BMA has already begun talking to Acas to help break the impasse, claiming the Government ‘consistently refuses offers to meet’.
In his letter to both parties, NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said that involving Acas must be explored ‘as a matter of urgency to help bring both sides to the table’ and resolve the dispute.
He said: ‘While we await what we hope is inevitable eventual negotiation, our members are questioning how much damage will be caused along the way. Health leaders want both sides to do everything within their power to find some common ground as soon as possible, and it seems that the current approach is not working here.’
The 96-hour strikes this week are primarily being held over pay.
The BMA has said the wage for junior doctors has fallen 26% in the last 15 years. Its call for a 35% pay rise would bring salaries in line with 2008-09, it has said.
In a new media campaign, the union flagged that three junior doctors will make £66.55 between them for removing an appendix – highlighting ‘how little they are paid for their roles in surgical procedures’.
Some trusts with A&E services may choose to turn patients away during the four-day strike this week, integrated care boards (ICBs) have warned.