BMA calls off next junior doctor strike

19 Jan 16

Industrial action by junior doctors planned for next week has been suspended following “early progress” in talks with government over new contract terms, the British Medical Association announced.

The union said that, following talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health yesterday, its junior doctor committee made the decision to suspend the 48-hour industrial action planned for 26-28 January.

This action, during which doctors would only provide emergency care, would have followed a similar 24-hour strike last week.

The dispute is in relation to a new contract that health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to introduce, which would regard evening and weekend working as plain time and not premium time. It is part of government efforts to improve NHS care at these times.

However, the BMA argues that doctors would be paid less for working unsocial hours than they are under the current contract, with those working in specialties with a high proportion of weekend and evening working, such as emergency medicine, affected disproportionately. The union is also concerned that financial penalties faced by NHS providers for overworking doctors would be removed in the new contract and replaced by an inspection regime led by the Care Quality Commission.

In a statement released today, the BMA said the suspension of action was intended to give trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients.

It added: “This decision is in line with our stated aim to ensure a safe, fair contract through negotiated agreement, if at all possible.

“The action which junior doctors across England took last week sent a clear message to the Government and the negotiating team is now focusing on reaching a resolution to meet your concerns.”

A further day of full strike action is planned from 8am to 5pm on 10 February unless an agreement is reached. Plans for this action remain in place.

Responding to the announcement, a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The strike that took place last week was unnecessary while talks are ongoing, so it’s extremely welcome news that the BMA has suspended next week’s action, though as it stands emergency care will still be withdrawn in February. In the end, the government and junior doctors want to do the same thing by improving patient care at weekends – and we look forward to further constructive discussions."

Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, said the decision was welcome.

“We know from last week the disruption that industrial action has on patients, their families and carers as appointments and clinics are postponed or delayed. We will continue to work with the BMA over the coming days and hope that a resolution can be reached.”

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