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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 June, 2003, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Minister hints at consultants deal
Consultants rejected a new contract last year
Health Secretary John Reid appears to have given ground in his battle with NHS consultants over new work contracts.

Dr Reid, who took up his post earlier this month, told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost he was ready to discuss some "tweaks" to the proposed working conditions for hospital doctors.

Ten days ago he had been adamant he would not back down when consultants threatened their first industrial action for 30 years in protest at the new contracts.

But on Sunday he told the Frost programme: "The consultants say they have six problems. I want to listen to them. I value very much their professionalism, their integrity and their in-put."

Dr Reid said changes could come after a meeting with consultants' representatives on 4 July.

If they refuse to talk we have to take industrial action
Dr Roger Ferguson

"I will listen to what they have to say about the six points they have in reserve, that they have difficulties with, if I can shift on some of those, if I can tweak."

But, he added: "The red line is that the patient in the NHS has to come first."

Ten days ago doctors at a British Medical Association conference in London overwhelmingly backed calls to ballot consultants on possible action.

It followed the government's continued refusal to re-open talks on a new contract, which was rejected by consultants last year.

Consultants overwhelmingly rejected a proposed new contract last year.

They voted against substantial pay rises because of fears they would be forced to work evenings and weekends.

They were also concerned that the contract would give NHS managers too much say over how they work.

Dr Reid's predecessor as health secretary, Alan Milburn, consistently rejected calls from the BMA to reopen talks on the contract.

Q&A: Consultant contract row
19 Jun 03  |  Health
'We are desperately unhappy'
19 Jun 03  |  Health
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18 Jun 03  |  Health
Consultants reject new contract
31 Oct 02  |  Health

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