Ministers urged to enter Acas talks with consultants

Ministers urged to enter Acas talks with consultants

Medics have urged ministers to end a strike deadlock by using conciliation service Acas or risk NHS walkouts running into the winter.

Consultants in England from the British Medical Association (BMA) said they will not call any more strikes for four weeks as they invited ministers to enter talks through the service.

It comes in the middle of the longest-ever joint strike by junior doctors and consultants in England.

The BMA said medics would provide emergency cover only during the three-day walk out – also known as Christmas Day cover – which began on Monday at 7am.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, has written to the Prime Minister offering to enter negotiations, with Acas facilitating these talks “if necessary”.

Consultants said they would not call any further strike dates for four weeks “to facilitate negotiations taking place”.

But the letter states that if medics do not receive a “credible deal we can put to our members” by November 3, then strike dates will be set for November and December.

It comes as radiographers are set to join doctors on picket lines at hospitals across England, heaping additional pressure on NHS services already disrupted by strike action.

The Society of Radiographers (SoR) said staff at 37 trusts in England are set to strike for 24 hours from 8am.

Hospital dentists from the British Dental Association are also staging a three-day strike, providing emergency care only.

The joint action coincides with the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Doctors from the BMA are planning to travel from around the country to join a rally outside the conference.

Buses are bringing doctors from across England to join the demonstration, with some travelling from as far away as Bristol or Newcastle.

“They have suggested they won’t talk to us while strikes are called,” Dr Sharma will tell the rally.

“This is a ridiculous position for the Government to take. They should be doing everything, right up until the last minute, to avert strike action. Our door has always been open, and that remains the case.

“To demonstrate our commitment to resolving this dispute, yesterday I wrote to the Prime Minister.

“We have not yet called further strikes beyond this week, and have given the Government four weeks from today to enter formal talks and present us with a credible offer.

“We have also indicated that we are willing to involve Acas to conciliate a resolution.

“The ball is well and truly in the Prime Minister’s court. The Government has run out of excuses not to negotiate in good faith. But they need to know that, if they fail to negotiate, we are not going anywhere.”

Radiographers will also be in attendance at the rally.

Leandre Archer, head of industrial relations for the Society of Radiographers, is expected to tell the demonstration: “Our members are struggling to make ends meet while the cost of living soars.

“Our members can’t afford to pay for childcare or even to move out of their parents’ home.

“Our members see patients deteriorating on ever-increasing waiting lists.

“They work excessive hours to deal with increasing vacancies.

“They watch colleagues leaving the NHS, seeking better work and better pay.”

Earlier this week, NHS England warned that there would be “extreme” disruption during the unprecedented strike.

It said routine care would be brought to “a near standstill” but urged the public still to come forward to seek emergency care when needed.

Meanwhile, health commentators have urged the Government and the unions to end the deadlock.

On Monday, Marina Glasgow, Acas’s chief conciliator, said: “We have a team of experts who are well prepared and ready to help with the consultants and junior doctors’ disputes.

“Acas has decades of experience in resolving disputes, which includes helping the various sides look at options for a compromise.

“Our collective conciliation service is impartial, free and independent. It is also voluntary, which means we can only hold formal conciliation talks when all the parties in dispute agree that the time is right for conciliation.

“An independent survey this year showed that both employers and employees overwhelmingly want the various sides involved in strike action to seek mediation from Acas to resolve their dispute.”

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Trust leaders hope this olive branch from consultants to the Government could be a first step to ending disruptive strikes.

“Something has to give. We can’t go into another ‘full on’ winter with the threat of more strikes hanging over the NHS.

“We have said before that we would welcome all sides using an intermediary like Acas if that helps to break the deadlock.”

The NHS Confederation said that unless a solution is reached, the NHS will not achieve the Prime Minister’s ambition to reduce the NHS waiting list.

Its chief executive Matthew Taylor said: “We know that neither the Government nor the BMA want us to be in this situation, but we are now seven months on from the start of industrial action by doctors and there is no solution in sight.

“We urge both sides to resume talks in the hope that they can agree a compromise before winter sets in.

“If they can’t, then we think there needs to be honesty about how achievable the Prime Minister’s key pledge of reducing the size of the waiting list by March 2024 is.

“Since he made that pledge, the impact of strike action has made this much harder to achieve. Another 600,000 have joined the list in that time and it’s increasing by more than 70,000 on average each month.

“Unless there is a breakthrough soon, then we can unfortunately expect to wave goodbye to that pledge being met.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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