Junior doctors' strike to go ahead

Nursing students plan to show their support on February 10 by stopping work for one hour

Junior doctors plan to take strike action next week, after talks between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government have again failed to reach an agreement on new contracts.

The BMA confirmed its members will begin a 24-hour strike at 8am on February 10, but instead of a planned full walk-out, doctors will now provide emergency care.

Nursing students have also vowed to stop work at NHS placements for an hour during the strike to show solidarity with their medical colleagues, and to protest over the threat to replace the student bursary with a loan – a move the government says will increase the number of nursing students and offer better access to funding.

Students who oppose the plan have nicknamed February 10 'Walkout Wednesday' and say it will form part of a week of action starting on February 8.

The strike will be the second time junior doctors have taken industrial action over their contract dispute with the government, which centres on pay linked to unsocial hours.  

The BMA, which previously suspended a 48-hour walkout due to take place on January 26, has accused the Department for Health (DH) of putting ‘politics before patients’.

BMA junior doctor committee chair Johann Malawana said: ‘The government’s position – based on ideology rather than reason – risks souring relations with an entire generation of junior doctors.

‘Its 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.

‘The public has shown its support for junior doctors and we deeply regret the disruption which industrial action will cause.'

He added that the walkout had been changed to balance the need to send a clear message to the government with the desire to provide ongoing care and minimise disruption.

NHS Employers lead negotiator Sir David Dalton wrote to health secretary Jeremy Hunt updating him on progress made in the last three weeks but warned: 'Should the BMA confirm that they will not negotiate and compromise on unsocial hours, then I will have to conclude that there is no opportunity for a negotiated settlement.'

A Department for Health spokesperson said: 'It is regrettable that the BMA is proceeding with further unnecessary industrial action.

'Sir David’s published summary of negotiations shows how close we are to agreeing a deal and demonstrates our strong desire to resolve the key substantive issue of pay for unsocial hours – as both parties agreed to do with ACAS back in November.

'We want to settle this so that we can improve the standard of care for patients at weekends.'

NHS Employers has published advice to help trusts avoid disruption to patients. Click here for the website.

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