Junior doctor contract negotiations 'impeded' by social media, says man brought in to end dispute

'It’s been done in a goldfish bowl of people giving real-time commentary, and that makes it more difficult to create the space for negotiations'

Comments on social media were a “huge impediment” to negotiations surrounding the new junior doctors’ contract, according to the man brought in by the Government to help end the dispute.  

Sir David Dalton said that attempts to find agreement were made “more difficult” by the barrage of social media from medics and members of the public alike. “It’s been done in a goldfish bowl of people giving real-time commentary, and that makes it more difficult to create the space for negotiations,” the chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Trust told The Times

The gap between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government was “tiny”, he said adding that there was “an extent to which the dispute isn’t really about the contract”. 

“The contract is the totem pole that people have danced around,” he said. “But it’s all the other factors – the not feeling valued, taken for granted – that are more at play than the terms of the contract.”

The dispute over Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of the new contract “could become a war”, according to Christina McAnea, the head of health at the public service union Unison.    

She told the BBC it sent “a very worrying message to other members of staff”. 

She said: “Everybody else is really worried that if they can do this to doctors, what does that mean for us?” 

The comments came after several hospital bosses distanced themselves from the suggestion that they agreed to a new contract being imposed, after their names were linked to a letter Mr Hunt used to justify the decision.

The names of 20 NHS trust bosses in England were attached to a letter from Sir David advising the Government to do “whatever it deems necessary” to break the deadlock. But around half of the chief executives named have said they did not agree to the contract being forced on medics, even though they backed the terms being offered by the Government.

The BMA has staged two walkouts, and further strikes and legal actions are possible, while some junior doctors may refuse to sign new contracts which are due to be implemented from August.

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