A deal has been reached between the government and junior doctors, bringing to an end the three year dispute that has seen thousands of patient operations cancelled.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service announced on Wednesday afternoon that a deal had been reached after more than a week of negotiations. Crucially the deal will have to be agreed by the British Medical Association’s junior doctor membership.

johann malawana

Johann Malawana

Johann Malawana: ‘Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract’

Key agreements in the deal will see plain time working extended across both Saturdays and Sundays. Doctors who are rostered to work more than six weekends will receive an additional weekend premium, with those working one in two weekends receiving an additional 10 per cent premium.

Overall basic pay will rise by just over 10 per cent – lower than the 13.5 per cent rise planned under the suggested imposed contract. The Department of Health insisted the contract remained within the cost neutrality target.

Health Education England will be asked to review how it places doctors in training to help provide a better family life. Doctors with carer responsibilities or who are forced to take time out of training will receive additional support.

Acas said the deal would be worked on over the next two weeks ahead of the referendum of BMA members, which if agreed would see some elements of the contract implemented in August, with doctors moving on to the contract between Octover 2015 and August 2017.

No further industrial action will be called while the referendum is under way.

The deal will be welcomed by NHS providers, which have been increasingly concerned about the long term effects of the dispute and the costs and difficulties of imposing a deal this August while strike action was ongoing.

Negotiations restarted last week after the BMA agreed to re-enter talks with the government following the intervention of 22 medical royal colleges and associations, which urged both sides to drop their rhetoric and pre-conditions. The government said it would enter into talks if the BMA dropped its resistance to discussing the extension of plain time on Saturdays.

Acas chair Sir Brendan Barber said: “The negotiators from both sides have worked with great intensity and in a good spirit to achieve this breakthrough. I have particularly appreciated the positive leadership shown by Sir David Dalton and Johann Malawana throughout these talks. I am grateful too that the secretary of state Jeremy Hunt engaged directly with the negotiations to help move the discussions forward.

“This long running dispute has clearly been an extraordinarily difficult period for the NHS. So I am glad that as well as cooperating closely in preparing the communications for the upcoming referendum, all the parties are also strongly committed to tackling together the bigger, wider challenges facing the NHS.”

Dr Malawana, the BMA junior doctors’ committee chair, said: “We are pleased to have reached agreement. Junior doctors have always wanted to agree a safe and fair contract, one that recognises and values the contribution junior doctors make to the NHS, addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in parts of the NHS and provides the basis for delivering a world class health service.

“I believe that what has been agreed today delivers on these principles, is a good deal for junior doctors and will ensure that they can continue to deliver high quality care for patients. This represents the best and final way of resolving the dispute and this is what I will be saying to junior doctors in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the new contract.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “We welcome this significant agreement which delivers important changes to the junior doctors’ contract necessary to deliver a safer seven day NHS.

“The talks have been constructive and positive and highlighted many areas outside the contract where further work is necessary to value the vital role of junior doctors and improve the training and support they are given. This deal represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors, and for the NHS as a whole.”

Deal reached on junior doctors contract