SCOTLAND’S Health Secretary has offered to "mediate" in a dispute between the UK Government and junior doctors after a record pay deal was agreed north of the Border.

Michael Matheson has written to his UK counterpart Steve Barclay offering to mediate new talks between the parties after the Scottish Government managed to avert strike action last week.

Junior doctors accepted a 12.4% pay boost which British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland said set the country apart "from what is happening elsewhere in the UK". 

Scotland remains the only part of the UK to have dodged industrial action by NHS workers.

The NHS in England has faced more than eight months of industrial action so far. 

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Matheson said he believes he can help in the dispute in England, adding he was happy to host talks in Edinburgh or London.

He said: “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.”

In his letter, Matheson said that given the challenges in the health service following the pandemic “one of the most effective ways to ensure that capacity is protected is by having the healthcare workforce at work, rather than on strike”.

He stressed how Scotland has avoided strikes by engaging “seriously and respectfully” with unions with “frank and honest” discussions.

Matheson added that since a Inter-Ministerial Group on Health and Social Care was set up in January last year – which is designed to allow the four UK nations to discuss matters of shared interest – it has only met once.

Despite Tory MP and MSP Douglas Ross suggesting that junior doctors in England had already been offered the same deal as in Scotland and they rejected it, the BMA confirmed this had not happened and described Ross’s claims as “totally false”.

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Matheson said the UK Government should return to the negotiating table without preconditions being placed on the BMA and come forward with a “realistic offer”.

His letter went on: “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.

“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.”

Dr Chris Smith, Chair of Scottish Junior Doctors Committee in the BMA, said: “The fact that the Government in Scotland negotiated with us, even when strike dates were announced, was welcomed by Scottish doctors and has given us a framework at least to move towards full pay restoration.

"But all parties should be under no illusions that the agreed offer solves all the problems or delivers all that junior doctors in Scotland are looking for.

"Their remains much hard work to do in Scotland, with imminent contract negotiations and the need for yearly pay negotiations that must make credible progress towards full pay restoration.

"We would encourage all at the Scottish Government to focus on that. We also stand in full support of English colleagues and would urge the UK health secretary to get back round the table there and negotiate in good faith to provide our English colleagues with an offer they can support in their own circumstances – rather than the current intransigent approach that is solely responsible for the strike action underway.”