Talks seeking to resolve the junior doctor contract dispute were due to begin on Monday, with Sir David Dalton leading for the government.

The British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee voted to return to talks with the government, and made a commitment to discuss issues including weekend unsocial hours pay, on Saturday. On Sunday the Department of Health announced that Sir David, Salford Royal Foundation Trust chief executive, would lead for it in the negotiations.

The BMA has said any contract offer which follows from the talks will be put to a referendum of junior doctors - suggesting the government would need to produce a deal the majority of doctors would back if it is to avoid an imposed contract.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week said the government would pause the planned imposition of the contract for five days and talk to the BMA, but specified that the BMA must be willing to discuss weekend pay, a major outstanding issue of disagreement from previous talks. This came after medical royal colleges and faculties, and the NHS Confederation, urged both sides to return to negotiation.

HSJ understands a letter will be sent to NHS trusts today setting out more detail about the government’s position and making clear the impact of the five-day pause to imposition. Many trusts have already begun the process of redesigning their junior doctor rotas.

Sir David led a previous round of talks for the government earlier this year, but in February said he did not believe a deal could be reached.

His role in this week’s negotiations was welcomed yesterday by JDC chair Johann Malawana, who said on Twitter: “I welcome working with David to try and find a solution for junior doctors. Will be tough week but juniors want talks. [We] were able to make a lot of progress last time with David. Hoping can pick up where [we] left off and try and find solutions.”

In relation to the JDC’s decision to return to talks, Dr Malawana said in an email to junior doctors that the BMA would be looking for agreement on principles that the contract “must not directly or indirectly discriminate against women, less than full time trainees, carers, or those with long term conditions”.

He said any deal must not worsen recruitment and must be the “basis of a collaborative effort to deliver a fully resourced, evidence based and world-class healthcare service”. He said any contract offer would be put to junior doctors in a referendum.

He said: “We hope that with both parties back around the negotiating table, real progress can now be made to ending this dispute through talks.”

The DH welcomed the moved. It said: ”From Monday we will be looking for resolution on the small number of outstanding issues that separated both parties in February, principally Saturday pay, but also other issues that affect the motivation, recruitment and retention of junior doctors.”