Junior doctor strike: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says breakdown in negotiations with British Medical Association is "somewhat perplexing"

 
James Nickerson
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Hunt said the priority is to get all sides back to the negotiating table (Source: Getty)

The breakdown in talks between the government and junior doctors is "very disappointing and somewhat perplexing" after progress appeared to have been made in talks, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Hunt said the government thought "very good progress" was being made after the government was prepared to negotiate, an hour after which the British Medical Association (BMA) walked out of the talks.

A 24-hour strike next Tuesday will be followed by a 48-hour strike on 26 January, with a third walk-out in February over the contract dispute.

Read more: Junior doctors vote overwhelmingly in favour of going on strike

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Hunt said that the pay dispute was the most important aspect of the contract, with the government stating that 99 per cent of doctors will have their pay protected.

However, Mark Porter, BMA council chair, has rejected the 99 per cent figure as "government propaganda".

The news comes after the BMA last month cancelled three strikes, opting to re-enter negotiations with the government.

Read more: Will health secretary Jeremy Hunt's offer make much difference?

The strikes are likely to result in thousands of non-emergency operations being cancelled in the coming days, with Porter stating that doctors are the last people who want a strike to go ahead.

Hunt said an exhaustive process will now take place to limit disruption to patient care, but that getting back to the negotiating table was the most important goal for the government.

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