Junior doctor rolling strike action ‘will achieve little or nothing’

Junior doctors are being warned that striking “achieves little or nothing” as their new leader within the BMA, Ellen McCourt, gears them up for a potential “rolling programme of escalated industrial action” starting as early as next month.

McCourt, who chairs the BMA’s junior doctors committee (JDC), said in an email to members that the union has “simply seen nothing” when it comes to issues which need to be resolved by the government surrounding the problematic junior doctor contract.

“I have repeatedly told the secretary of state what needs to be addressed and, crucially, by when. We have seen some last-minute movement from Health Education England (HEE) on whistleblowing protections, and from NHS leaders with regard to the role of the Guardian of Safe Working, but the government remains persistently silent,” she continued.

“In light of this, the JDC Executive has voted to reject the proposed new contract in full and to call for formal re-negotiations on all of your concerns. In response to the government’s silence, JDC Exec has today made a formal request for a special meeting of BMA Council to authorise a rolling programme of escalated industrial action beginning in early September.

“Forcing a contract on junior doctors in which they don’t have confidence, that they don’t feel is good for their patients or themselves, is not something they can accept.”

But Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said further strike action would only place pressure on “already stretched teams and services”.

“Industrial action achieves little or nothing, but places pressure on already stretched teams and services and causes worry, distress and disruption for patients, carers and their families,” he said. “Over the last two months we have been talking with the JDC and have, along with the Department of Health and others, responded positively to their concerns regarding the Guardian Role and whistleblowing.

“Employers were hopeful that the continued positive engagement on other important topics – such as deployment, flexibility in training, additional training for those returning from career breaks, costs of training, mutual recognition of syllabus, study leave and the gender pay gap in medicine – were a sign of how serious employers, HEE and the Department of Health were about honouring the agreements reached with the BMA in November, February and May.”

McCourt, who was appointed in July after previous leader Dr Johann Malawana resigned after junior doctors voted 58% against a revised contract, had always promised to continue to fight the contract imposition.

Other bodies had also urged health secretary Jeremy Hunt not to impose the revised deal, including the Royal College of Paediatrics, whose leader argued the contract was particularly damaging because NHS services are already “running on empty”.

(Top image c. Andrew Matthews)

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