Junior doctors considering indefinite walkout if strikes fail

Junior doctors’ leaders are considering an indefinite walkout or mass resignations to force the government back to the negotiating table in the escalating contract dispute.

E-mails between members of the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors’ committee (JDC), seen by HSJ, showed them discussing options including an indefinite strike, mass resignations of trainees, recommending junior doctors seek alternate careers, and ‘alternative forms of permanent action’.

Doctors have already escalated their tactics from 24 hour to 48 hour strikes, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was imposing the contract over their objections, and then to a total withdrawal of care affecting emergency services, due to start in Tuesday’s strike. Hunt’s legal power to impose the contract has now been challenged.

Ben Gummer, junior minister for health, said: “The BMA are now officially contemplating an indefinite suspension of potentially life-saving care. That will worry patients all over the country.

“This is evidence of an organisation in total disarray and the action proposed shows a regrettable disregard for patient care. For the JDC this dispute is now clearly political.”

The e-mails also show a continued refusal in the BMA to accept the contract or negotiate with individual trusts.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA committee, said: “Let me be clear, junior doctors do not want to have to take any action. They would rather be in work, treating patients, but by refusing to get back around the table and address junior doctors’ outstanding concerns the government has left them with no alternative.

“What happens after next week’s action is entirely down to the government. No decision has yet been made about future action but junior doctors will, of course, have to consider what options are open to them if the government refuses to re-enter talks.

“The crucial message, however, is this: it is not too late to end this dispute and call off next week’s action entirely. For the sake of patients as well as doctors, the government must listen to concerns from all sides calling on it to lift imposition, sit down with junior doctors and end this dispute through talks.”

The BMA also published the results of a survey of medical students today, which found that 74.5% said they were more likely to pursue a career outside the NHS as a result of the contract, 72% said they were more likely to look for a job in the Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish NHS and 82.9% said they were more likely to work outside the UK.

The survey also showed that 94% of respondents said the contract had made them less enthusiastic about working in medicine and 76.5% said they were less likely to recommend studying medicine to friends and family.

Health Education England data also shows that fewer junior doctors are being recruited into specialty medicine this year.

The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges also became the latest professional body to say the government should accept the junior doctors’ offer to call off the strikes if they resume talks, saying: “We urge the Government to accept this offer. Both sides must show a genuine commitment to reaching a negotiated settlement.”

The General Medical Council have issued guidelines saying that doctors should resume work if the strikes put patients at risk.

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




Malcolm Daw   25/04/2016 at 13:55

There is no way on this earth should the government let these so called Doctors hold the country to ransome. They call themselves health Professionals no way are they this.The BMA were given enough time (3 years) to agree a deal and wanted too much now they think they can achieve their demands by withholding treatment to their vulnerable patients who are sick.Watching these people on picket lines reminded me of the miners what did they get ....nothing.The government are aiming to improve the overall care 7 days a week available to all including children who do not understand what this is all about yes MONEY.Who paid for your education and Medical School not you so get back to your patients and do what you are handsomely paid to do. Mr Hunt must now introduce a no strike clause immediately for all of these so called doctors as the armed forces and police already have.Compare their salaries to the police and they are extremely well off.If the doctors don't like their deal or treating patients GET OUT now

John Knowles   25/04/2016 at 20:15

I could not disagree with the previous correspondent more . Whilst the principle of a fully operational Nhs hospital service 7 days a week is the right one , it cannot be done by forcing the additional workload onto the present level of staffing . GPs are in a similar dilemma , too much work and not enough Doctors in many practices .

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