The British Medical Association and the Department of Health are expected to start negotiations soon on the final shape of the new consultants' contract.

Despite the bitter accusations of last week, when the DoH published its proposals, both sides say they expect to have regular meetings from now on.

Ironically, the publication of the DoH's proposals seems to have cleared the air, with the BMA criticising the lack of detail in the document but finding few areas to object to on principle.

Some controversial points have already been agreed, and the BMA is pushing on issues such as workload intensity.

The sticking point is the proposed ban on private practice for newly appointed consultants. Dr Peter Hawker, chair of the BMA's consultants' committee, said: 'I am not negotiating a two-tier system. '

He said he was taking ministers at their word when they assured him they sought a negotiated settlement.