Junior doctors’ strikes called off as Hunt lifts threat to impose contract

Junior doctors have called off three days of planned strike action after the government agreed to temporarily suspend the threat to impose a contract without agreement. 

The breakthrough came only hours before the first strike action was due to start at 8am today (1 December), but this has still meant many operations and appointments remain cancelled. It also means strikes planned for 8 and 16 December have also been postponed. 

Last week, the BMA said that the only way the strike action could be avoided was if Jeremy Hunt removed his threat of imposing a contract on doctors in training in England. 

Yesterday morning this still seemed some way off, as the BMA sent a letter to members saying that strike action was “almost inevitable”

Following conciliation talks over the last few days, all parties say that they are “committed to reaching an agreement that improves safety for patients and doctors”. 

A statement added: “NHS Employers have agreed to extend the timeframe for the BMA to commence any industrial action by four weeks to 13 January 2016 at 5pm, to allow negotiations to progress. 

“Within that timetable, the BMA agrees to temporarily suspend its proposed strike action and the Department of Health agrees similarly to temporarily suspend implementation of a contract without agreement.” 

A memorandum outlining the “return to negotiation” has also been signed by the parties involved in the talks. It reads: “We acknowledge the commitment of the BMA, NHS Employers and DH to the centrality of junior doctors in the current and future NHS, to recognise their dedication to patients and the NHS, and to provide a safe and supportive environment and fair reward. 

“The parties support the commitment to patients to ensure that the quality of care and patient outcomes (including appropriately adjusted mortality rates) are the same every day of the week.  In that context we recognise the commitment of the government to work with the medical profession and other staff groups in partnership to improve access to seven day services. The parties recognise that junior doctors currently make a significant contribution across seven days, that urgent and emergency care is the priority for such services and that any new contract would support these aims. 

“All parties acknowledge the crucial role of doctors in training across the NHS in providing safe patient care and the need to properly recognise that contribution not only through terms and conditions but also by reaffirming the commitment to a high-quality training experience, the very best working environment and appropriate work-life balance. 

“The current cost-neutral November 2015 offer is the basis for further negotiation, and the BMA, NHS Employers and DH have agreed to work collaboratively to develop and oversee new contractual terms and conditions of service for junior doctors. 

“Contractual safeguards for safety are paramount and we therefore commit to develop a jointly selected and supported guardian role to oversee the hours of work of doctors in training and ensuring appropriate payment for hours worked outside planned work schedules. 

“A commitment is also made to define propositions on work schedules, including the number of hours designated as plain time ensuring that doctors in training would not be expected to work consecutive weekends, and how time for administrative duties and training should be recognized. 

“Our discussions will also address access to flexible training (through joint work between HEE, BMA and NHS Employers), taking into account the changing demographic of the medical workforce, as well as developing further our shared commitment to ensuring that the training and working environment for junior doctors is improved (including addressing issues of fixed leave, study leave, notice of deployment and duty rosters, access to rest and refreshment facilities). 

“Collaborative work on pay will include an ‘open-book’ approach to the November 2015 pay calculator and supporting data and models, including cost-neutrality and equality impact, helping ensure clear systems for pay progression and managing transition. This agreement also recognises the need to work in partnership with HEE and where relevant the medical royal colleges to improve the training experience for junior doctors, including improving access to flexible working and enabling the transition to a fully competency-based approach to support junior doctors to progress through their training.” 

For more information on the junior doctor row and to keep up to date with stories, access NHE's exclusive timeline of events dating back to 2013.


Angus   01/12/2015 at 10:34

I don't get the Government's position. They say that not enough doctors are working at weekends. They want more doctors to work at weekends. They want to have a "cost neutral" solution. Obvious answer: reduce pay for working on weekdays and increase pay for working at weekends. Government's proposal: increase pay for working on weekdays and reduce pay for working at weekends. What am I missing???

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