The British Medical Association has agreed to re-enter negotiations with NHS Employers over the consultant contract, it has been announced.

  • BMA re-enters talks after health secretary issues ultimatum
  • Union walked away from negotiations last year
  • Consultants could vote on new contract in early 2016

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said in July that he would impose a new contract if the doctors’ union did not agree to negotiate by September.

The BMA pulled out of negotiations last October after 18 months of talks.

The decision to re-enter negotiations was taken following a vote by the BMA consultant committee. Talks will now continue over the coming months and any new contract will be put before consultants to vote on early next year.

HSJ reported last month that the BMA was in “exploratory” talks with NHS Employers.

Paul Flynn, BMA consultant committee chair, said: “The BMA is committed to reaching agreement on a contract that delivers high quality, safe patient care across the week. There is still much to discuss, but we want to deliver a contract that is good for patients, fair for doctors and good for the NHS.

“Much of the focus around contract talks has been on seven-day services. The BMA believes patients should have access to high quality care, seven days a week. Nine in 10 consultants already work evenings and weekends to deliver this care, and they do so under the existing contract. Only one per cent have used the so-called ‘weekend opt-out’.

“It is important that the government and NHS Employers work with us constructively in the coming months to agree a contract that delivers for patients and the consultants who care for them, that protects safe working patterns and that values the vital contribution consultants make to the NHS.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We look forward to working with the BMA consultants committee to take forward negotiations as per the commitments given to the secretary of state. I would like to thank all parties for their focused and professional approach to the discussions to date and we look forward to progressing matters to a fair conclusion in the months to come.”