Plans to renegotiate the junior doctors’ contract are unlikely to be completed by the April 2014 deadline set by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, HSJ has been told.

HSJ has today published a detailed Briefing on the negotiation and future of the contract.

Ministers are expected to give the green light to NHS Employers to open talks with the British Medical Association as part of a full renegotiation of the contract, which governs the employment of 52,000 junior doctors in the NHS.

Mr Hunt accepted an initial scoping report by the employers’ organisation last month, which concluded both doctors and employers believed the existing contract was “not fit for purpose” and is too heavily focussed on pay and hours worked.

Senior sources involved in the talks told HSJ the negotiations could begin within the next two months but are highly likely to take more than 12 months to conclude.

Mr Hunt has indicated the government wishes to implement any changes by April 2014 but a BMA source close to the negotiations said: “It’s never been done that quickly before. It’s a lot of work to do a full contract negotiation and it could require a ballot of members and even non-members.

“It just isn’t a realistic timetable to have it completed and ready to implement by April 2014.”

NHS Employers has said it will aim to meet the deadline but the negotiations are likely to be complex.

HSJ understands employers will seek a shift towards an increased basic pay for trainee medics, with a reduction in the use of expensive banding supplements which on average add 45 per cent of pay to junior doctors’ salaries.

Employers will also seek a link between pay progression and competencies but the BMA’s junior doctors committee is unlikely to support any change which disadvantages any group or reduces overall terms and conditions.