Consultants in England could be offered new NHS contracts within weeks, after what ministers have called “constructive” negotiations.
Ministers want to remove a clause that lets consultants opt out of providing non-emergency care at weekends as part of their plans for a “seven-day NHS”.
A breakthrough is seen as vital by the government as it tries to move on from the junior doctors row.
This week’s 48-hour stoppage is the third walkout by juniors, with another two planned for next month as the profession fights the imposition of the new contract.
The talks with consultants’ leaders at the BMA began in autumn and slowed down at the turn of the year.
However, momentum has gathered in recent weeks and there is a possibility they could conclude before Easter, with meetings held this week and planned for next.
The negotiations, led by NHS Employers for ministers, have centred on removing the weekend opt-out consultants have for non-emergency care.
The government believes this is a major barrier to getting more consultants to work weekends, although the BMA says its research suggests nine in 10 consultants do some level of weekend working.