Workforce and Training

26.09.16

Junior doctors’ strikes suspended

The BMA has suspended a programme of five-day junior doctors’ strikes over the autumn after warnings about their impact on patient safety.

The union announced the unprecedented strikes after the government imposed a new contract, which it had voted to reject, as part of its seven-day NHS plans.

The decision was met with opposition by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, NHS Providers, and Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, over concerns that it would compromise patient safety.

Dr Ellen McCourt, chair of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, called off the strikes on Saturday, saying: “We still oppose the imposition of the contract and are now planning a range of other actions in order to resist it, but patient safety is doctors’ primary concern and so it is right that we listen and respond to concerns about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service.”

However, she added: “We hope the government will seize this opportunity to engage with junior doctors and listen to the range of voices from across the NHS raising concerns about doctors’ working lives and the impact of the contract on patient care.

“If the NHS cannot attract and keep those doctors on whose dedication and professional skills it relies, there will be no recognisable health service in England.”

The BMA called off a strike, due to start at 12 September, over concerns about the short notice given, but said that strikes in October, November and December would still go ahead.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the news would come as “a huge relief to thousands of patients”.

She urged the Department of Health to “show willingness to meet with the BMA and do what they can to address doctors’ working conditions and respond to their concerns around patient safety”.

The Department of Health said: “The best way to rebuild trust now is for industrial action to be called off permanently in the interests of patients – and we urge the BMA to do so.”

(Image c. Ben Birchall from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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