Junior doctor action back on after talks end in failure

2 Feb 16

Junior doctors are set to go ahead with industrial action next week after talks to end a contractual dispute with the Department of Health ended without a deal.

In a statement issued to members yesterday, the British Medical Association said that, despite hours of talks at the conciliation service Acas, no agreement had been reached with NHS Employers and the Department of Health on new terms.

The long-running dispute relates to a new contract that health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to introduce. This would include evening and weekend shifts as plain time and not premium time as part of moves to what Hunt calls a seven-day NHS.

But the BMA maintains 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 doctors’ 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.

Following talks after a day of industrial action last month that saw only emergency care provided, the BMA stated that action planned for 10 February would now go ahead.

However, rather than a full walkout as originally indicated, the action will mirror that of 12 January, with junior doctors providing emergency care only for 24 hours. Action will take place from 8am on Wednesday 10 February to 8am Thursday 11 February.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana said the involvement of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Sir David Dalton in the talks had helped them to progress but criticised the government’s for continuing to “dig in its heels”.

“The government’s entrenched position in refusing to recognise Saturday working as unsocial hours, together with its continued threat to impose a contract so fiercely resisted by junior doctors across England, leaves us with no alternative but to continue with industrial action,” Malawana said.

Hunt responded that the strike would invariably cause disruption for patients.

In a letter to the BMA he said: “The government and NHS Employers made a significant offer on the extent of plan time and stood ready to discuss these matters and it is very disappointing that the BMA felt unable to negotiate.

“Our door remains open and I hope that you will continue to reflect on the value of further discussions. In particular, I would welcome your assurance that you are willing to discuss plain time working hours, as set out in the joint agreement with ACAS in November.”

Did you enjoy this article?