07/05/2016 22:04 BST | Updated 07/05/2016 22:06 BST

Junior Doctors Confirm Fresh Negotiations With Jeremy Hunt After Strikes Over New Contract

A significant move that could prevent future strikes.

Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Junior doctors' representatives will now re-enter talks with the government following days of unprecedented strikes

The British Medical Association has agreed to re-enter into talks with the Government over the junior doctors' contract, a senior medic has confirmed.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the union's junior doctors' committee, said he hoped "real progress can now be made to ending this dispute".

Junior medics have held out on negotiating with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt since he declared the imposition of a new working contract.

Neil Hall/PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt's offer of constructive talks has been accepted (file photo)

Doctors say new rules concerning their pay and hours will affect patient safety.

Hunt told Sky News on Thursday: "I hope the BMA will take up the offer to talk constructively and we’re seeking assurances by close of the day on Saturday that the BMA will negotiate constructively on the outstanding issues."

The doctors' union has now taken up the offer to talk with Hunt, on the condition that any proposals be put to junior medics via a referendum.

Dr Malawana said on Saturday: "The BMA has agreed to re-enter talks with the government on outstanding issues in this dispute, which include, but are not limited to, unsocial hours.

"Junior doctors’ concerns extend far beyond pay, and our principle in talks will be to deliver a fair contract that does not discriminate against women or any other group, one which addresses the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS and which provides the basis for delivering a world-class health service.

"The BMA will also call for any contract offer – agreed or not – to be put to a referendum of junior doctors, as is usual following a contract negotiation. We hope that with both parties back around the negotiating table, real progress can now be made to ending this dispute through talks."