The must read stories and talking points from Friday

Negotiation niggles

Just when you thought it was safe to say “contract negotiation” we have a double whammy of news, with HSJ revealing that a refusal by the Treasury to fund transition costs for the consultant contract changes means the reforms could be delayed until 2019 at the earliest.

This comes after the chancellor said he would fund a pay rise for Agenda for Change staff if – it is a big if – they agree to reform their own contracts.

You would have thought the government may have had enough of contract reform after last year’s bruising junior doctors’ dispute, but when it comes to the consultants’ negotiations it appears things are more cordial (at least for now).

HSJ understands the talks have gone well and a deal was pretty much ready to go last year but issues over transition funding scuppered the plans.

Now NHS Employers and the BMA consultants committee are back at the table discussing what they might be able to achieve. Both sides say talks have been constructive.

However, BMA members may have a different view and at some point the contract is likely to go to a ballot of members, which if they vote down the deal could lead the union into another dispute with the government.

Talks over reforming the consultant contract started in 2013. While junior doctors took to the streets, and ultimately lost, the consultants seem to be playing the long game and it’s working.

Keeping look out

HSJ has launched a new fortnightly expert briefing for subscribers covering NHS performance.

Performance Watch, by correspondent James Illman, will delve into the most pressing performance matters troubling system leaders and provide unrivalled insight into what they plan to do about them.

This week, following the budget, he answers the question: will there be mass elective cancellations this winter?

Sign up to Performance Watch and HSJ’s other expert briefings at