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Labour ‘hopeful’ of reaching deal with junior doctors to end strikes

Health Secretary Wes Streeting is optimistic that there is a deal to be done to break the strikes deadlock with junior doctors, i understands.

In one of his first acts in Government, Mr Streeting called the British Medical Association (BMA) on Friday to arrange talks next week to end its long-running pay dispute with the Government.

Labour will not agree to the BMA’s demands of a 35 per cent pay rise but insiders pointed to recent deals made between the union with the administrations in Wales and Scotland, which saw 12.4 per cent increases for junior doctors for 2023-24.

Although there is no suggestion that Labour is poised to offer a similar 12.4 per cent pay rise for junior doctors in England, these compromises provide hope that “there is a deal to be done” and the Government is “hopeful and optimistic”, sources said.

Preliminary talks will take place next week, likely on Wednesday, to discuss a timetable for formal negotiations to start.

Mr Streeting said on Friday: “We promised during the campaign that we would begin negotiations as a matter of urgency, and that is what we are doing.”

The Health Secretary said during the election campaign there was not enough money to meet the pay demand of 35 per cent and that is still the case, insiders said.

In Scotland last August, the BMA accepted a pay offer of 12.4 per cent for junior doctors for 2023-24, following an uplift of 4.5 per cent in 2022-23.

And in Wales last week, the union voted to accept a rise of 12.4 per cent for 2023-24.

Junior doctors in England staged a five-day strike in the final days of the election campaign – their eleventh walkout of the dispute.

In a statement on Friday, BMA junior doctors committee (JDC) co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We were pleased to speak to the new Health Secretary Wes Streeting today, as he made good on his commitment made during the election campaign for JDC to be his first call and get the ball rolling on negotiating a solution to the junior doctors’ dispute.

“We expect talks to begin properly next week. As we have always been clear, only a credible offer, acceptable to our members, will end this dispute and we hope this will be made by the new Government as soon as possible.”

The BMA says pay has fallen by more than a quarter for junior doctors since the last Labour Government left in 2010, and any acceptance of an offer would have to recognise these levels of pay erosion.

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