The National Health Service has been told to prepare for industrial action by junior doctors next week after contract negotiations between the British Medical Association and the government fell apart.
The doctors’ union had stalled original plans to strike in December to allow for conciliatory talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health, but these have failed to reach a resolution.
Consequently, three bouts of action are now planned over the coming weeks, with junior doctors to provide only emergency care on January 12 and 26 followed by a total walk-out on February 10.
“We have consistently and clearly asked government for the key assurances we would need in order to re-enter negotiations - the first of which was a withdrawal of the threat to impose a contract. These assurances have still not been given to us,” the BMA said on its website.
“We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option,” the Association’s Mark Porter told the media. “It is because the government’s proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long-term that we are taking this stand”.
In an email to members, Dr Porter said the government had “spurned a once-in-a-decade opportunity to improve patient care” and “squandered its attempt to rebuild trust with the medical profession”. The BMA’s message for a safe contract could not have been clearer, he said, and accused the government of choosing to “misinterpret and misconstrue our intentions”.
The vast majority of 37,000 junior doctors taking part in the BMA’s recent strike ballot (98%) voted in support of industrial action over the government’s threat to impose a new working contract.
Many fear it will take a significant chunk out of their salaries because, while incorporating an 11% pay rise, it also significantly reduces the portion of hours classed as ‘unsociable’ and places a cap on the number of hours doctors are allowed to work in a week.