latest health care news

02.09.16

Senior doctors warn of ‘real problems’ with disproportionate strike action

A new five-day strike by junior doctors has been condemned by leading professional bodies, who warned it will make pressures on the NHS worse.

The British Medical Association announced the strike action, which will start on 12 September and be the longest in the history of the NHS, after members voted against a new contract it had agreed with the Department of Health.

It will be followed by rolling strikes until the end of the year, with action proposed on 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 October, 14-18 November and 5-9 December.

In a statement, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, a joint organisation for doctors’ professional bodies, said: “The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is disappointed at the prospect of further sustained industrial action by junior doctors.

“We are acutely aware that the NHS is under extreme pressure at the moment. Patient safety and quality of care must be the priority.

“We know there are genuine concerns about the contract and working arrangements, but we do not consider the proposed strikes are proportionate. Five days of strike action, particularly at such short notice, will cause real problems for patients, the service and the profession.”

The academy brokered the talks which led to the new contract, after five previous strikes by junior doctors.

Junior doctors say the contract, designed to help the government deliver its promise of a seven-day NHS, will offer them reduced pay for anti-social working hours and make it harder to maintain safe staffing levels.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, a coalition of health and care charities, said: “There is no doubt that junior doctors are under a lot of pressure and are deeply unhappy, and there is no doubt that there are weaknesses in the government’s seven-day NHS plan.

“This does not add up to a case for a continuous wave of strikes which might not have any benefit to junior doctors, but which will certainly be bad for patients and put further pressure on an already very stretched NHS.”

He urged both the BMA and the government to resume new talks, which he said should “include the people who have so far been shut out: patients and their representatives”.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, added that the industrial action is a “devastating blow to patients, and a destructive next step as far as any kind of negotiations go”.

She said the charity is worried it lacks the capacity to deal with calls on its helpline from patients concerned about the impact of the strikes.

Murphy urged the government and the BMA “to resume meaningful and sincere negotiations to prevent further industrial action”.

(Image c. Ben Birchall from PA Wire)

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