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23.02.16

Three more junior doctor strike threats as BMA launches legal action

Further strikes by junior doctors are planned following the health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose the controversial new contracts, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced today.

Hunt announced that he would impose the contracts, which involve reduced rates for doctors working on weekends, after two 24-hour strikes by junior doctors, on 12 January and 10 February.

The new wave of strikes will run for 48 hours, from 8am on 9 March, 6 April and 26 April, with only emergency care being provided.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: “The government must listen to the chorus of concern coming from all quarters and reconsider this disastrous approach.

“The government can avert this action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have, rather than simply ignoring them. If it pushes ahead with plans to impose a contract that junior doctors have resoundingly rejected we will be left with no option but to take this action.”

The BMA also announced that it is launching a judicial review of the decision to impose contracts because of the health secretary’s apparent failure to undertake an EIA (equality impact assessment) before making the decision.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ Trainee Doctors’ Group has since urged Hunt to resume negotiations.

Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, said it is disappointing that the BMA has decided to announce further industrial action, “despite the majority of the BMA’s concerns being addressed and reflected in the final contract”.

“This disruption to patient care is unnecessary,” he added. “I strongly believe that the final contract is safe, fair and reasonable. For the sake of the NHS, and patients I urge all junior doctors to take a look at the contract in detail before taking part in any future action.”

The Department of Health took a similar stance, repeating what it had already said about previous strike threats: “Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations – over a contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe. 

“We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings”.

But speaking at an event at the King's Fund this morning, Professor Don Berwick, CEO of the US-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the government's former patient safety adviser, said ministers were wrong to impose the contract and suggested there should be a three-year moratorium on the imposition.

"You cannot achieve excellence in combat with your future workforce, it makes no sense at all. So you need to find a way to de-escalate," he added. "I think the government should apologise."

(Image c. John Stillwell)

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