SNP Health Secretary offers to mediate talks between English junior doctors and UK Government

Michael MathesonMichael Matheson
Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson offered his services to ‘help break the impasse’

Michael Matheson has offered to mediate new talks between the UK Government and junior doctors in England.

The SNP Health Secretary offered his services to “help break the impasse” and said he would be happy to host the talks in either Edinburgh or London.

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He made the offer in a letter to UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay. It comes after Mr Barclay said he was open to Scottish and Welsh patients being treated in England as he accused the two nations of having worse delays in some cases.

Junior doctors in Scotland overwhelmingly voted to accept a “record” pay offer from the Scottish Government last week. It will see wages rise by 12.4 per cent in 2023-24, with Scottish ministers further guaranteeing increases in line with inflation until at least 2026-27.

Mr Matheson told Mr Barclay: "As you may be aware in NHS Scotland, we have not had any strikes. The reason for this is that we have engaged seriously and respectfully with trade union and staff representatives on their concerns. Our discussions were frank and honest.

"As is the nature of any negotiation there is, by necessity, compromise needed on all sides. It has been deeply challenging, but the cost of not doing so is plain for all to see in their impact on services to NHS England patients.”

He added: “To help break the impasse, I would like to offer the services of myself and my officials to mediate new talks between the UK Government and the BMA junior doctors’ representatives. Given the low ebb of relations between the UK Government and the representatives of NHS England staff I believe such mediation may be necessary to bring these matters to a conclusion that benefits patients. The Scottish Government will be happy to host such talks either in Edinburgh or London.

“The first step would be for the UK Government to return to the negotiating table without preconditions being placed on the BMA. The second step would be for the UK Government to come forward with a realistic offer on pay and conditions – I believe the deal accepted in Scotland may provide a suitable model. It must also be recognised that these are matters that going beyond just pay.

“The longer the action continues due to the UK Government refusing to engage, it is patients in England that are suffering.

“As you know, there are meant to be arrangements in place for the health ministers of the four nations to discuss matters of shared interest: the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on Health and Social Care.

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“Since this was established in January 2022 there has been one IMG meeting in July this year. Three previous attempts to have the meeting were all cancelled due to the unavailability of UK ministers. Should you be available for a future IMG before the next UK general election, I would be more than happy for the agenda to include matters on waiting times and industrial relations.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care did not engage with the offer for talks, saying: “We’re giving doctors in training a fair and reasonable pay rise, as recommended by the independent pay review body, with an average increase of around 8.8 per cent which is above what most in the public and private sectors are receiving.

“This is expected to increase average pay for NHS doctors in training by £3,800 to around £47,600.

“Our award, which is final and in line with what other public sector workers have accepted, balances the need to keep inflation in check while recognising the incredibly important work they do.”



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