'Real progress' made as deadline looms for junior doctors' contract talks

Junior doctors have taken strike action over the disputed contract Credit: PA

Talks to resolve differences over a new contract for junior doctors have entered their final day, with an arbitration service saying "real progress" has been made.

Doctors' leaders and the Government are returning to the negotiating table for an eighth day in a bid to break the deadlock over the controversial contract.

Last week, arbitration service Acas announced that negotiations would be extended for three additional days following a week of "intensive" talks between the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government officials.

Acas said that talks had been conducted in a "constructive and positive" atmosphere and that "real progress" had been made to address some of the outstanding issues.

[The Guardian reports](http://“We’re nearly there,” a source with knowledge of the discussions said) a source with knowledge of the negotiations said: "We're nearly there."

The BMA has said any deal would need to be put before junior doctors in a ballot, though that is expected to take several weeks.

Around 90% of the contract had been agreed before previous talks broke down, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt threatening to impose the contract, before backing down and agreeing to a resumption of negotiations.

This followed a wave of industrial action launched by junior doctors in recent months, which saw thousands of operations cancelled.

Junior doctors stopped providing emergency care for the first time in NHS history during their most recent walkout.

More than 125,000 appointments and operations were postponed, on top of almost 25,000 procedures cancelled during previous action.