• NHS Employers confirms approach to Acas on Thursday night
  • BMA made offer of mediation following industrial action ballot
  • It is the first step towards negotiation since October 2014

NHS Employers last night approached the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration service about the possibility of negotiations over a new junior doctors contract, HSJ has learned. 

NHS Employers said it made the approach after the British Medical Association proposed using Acas to mediate conciliatory talks, in the wake of a vote by junior doctors overwhelmingly backing strike action.

HSJ understands the contact was made last night by NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer, with the health secretary’s knowledge.

There have been no negotiations between the union and NHS Employers since the BMA walked out of talks without warning in October 2014.

Since then the BMA has refused to return to negotiations over the proposed contract offer so long as the government maintains its threat to impose a new contract in August 2016.

The union made the offer of Acas yesterday after revealing the results of a ballot of 37,000 doctors who voted by 98 per cent to support strike action.

Danny Mortimer told HSJ this afternoon: “We have made an approach to Acas. There is a process now started between BMA, Acas and ourselves. That is delicate and has some way to go. We want to establish that the BMA are serious about negotiations; we have always been serious about talks.”

Following the result of the BMA ballot yesterday the health secretary initially said the government would not consider using Acas until “meaningful talks” took place between the doctors union and the government, although he said he wouldn’t rule it out completely.

The Department of Health told HSJ that this approach to Acas should not be seen as the start of a process of negotiation but was an initial enquiry by NHS Employers to understand what that process might involve. The department said its position has not changed and that in the first instance the BMA must return to the table.