With no signs of a resolution anytime soon, junior doctors in England have once again taken to picket lines across the country in protest against working and pay conditions being proposed by the government.
Around 2,800 operations have reportedly been cancelled as doctors stage a 24-hour walk-out providing only emergency care, after several years of discussions with the government about a new contract have failed to find common ground.
The British Medical Association is most concerned with the government’s refusal to recognise Saturday working as unsocial hours, which would see junior doctors take a drop in salary despite an 11 percent rise in basic pay, the removal of safeguards to ensure that doctors aren’t over-worked, as well as the threat to impose the proposed contract if a resolution isn’t reached.
The BBC said it understands that talks within the government are already underway after NHS chiefs warned that ministers would have to “make their move this month” if they wanted a new contract in place by the summer.
But imposing the contract would not be a popular move. Almost 90 percent of junior doctors said they would consider resigning from the NHS if the government does so, according to a poll of more than 1,000 medics seen exclusively by The Independent, highlighting the strength of opposition to the proposals.
And it seems the public is also largely siding with the doctors. In the most recent Ipsos MORI poll, carried out in conjunction with the Health Services Journal, 64 percent of people believe ‘the government is more at fault for the dispute lasting this long’, while just 13 percent felt doctors were more to blame. Again, the majority - 66% - said they supported the strike excluding emergency care.
“These figures show that the ongoing nature of the junior doctors’ dispute is harming the government more than the doctors,” said Anna Quigley, head of Health Research at Ipsos MORI. “We know that doctors are among the most trusted individuals in society, and this dispute appears to have done little to dent this trust”.