Junior doctors announce five days of strike action

Fears over patient safety have been raised after junior doctors in England escalate dispute over new contract.
Junior doctors strike

Fears over patient safety have been raised after junior doctors in England announced five days of strike action.

Junior doctors strike
Junior doctors on strike in April over the government's controversial new contract Picture: iStock

The all-out strikes will take place between 8am-5pm from 12-16 September over the introduction of a controversial new contract.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said junior doctors had been left with ‘no choice’ but to take fresh strike action - which follows six earlier strikes - following failed attempts to resolve the dispute over the contract.

Patients the priority

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt branded the decision by the BMA ‘totally irresponsible’ and the General Medical Council (GMC) insisted patient need must be the priority.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson warned about the impact on patients.

'The decision of the BMA’s leadership to call on doctors in training in England to take rolling, all-out industrial action is unprecedented and represents a serious escalation of this dispute.

‘It is obviously a matter of great concern for everyone, especially for patients, and when so little time has been given for the NHS to make contingency plans.’

United behind the doctors

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter would not be drawn on claims that the body supported the strike by a knife-edge 16-14 split.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘The council has decided, after a long and exhaustive debate, to support this strike action, and today the council is united behind junior doctors in their struggle in this, as I believe will be the profession.

‘And I will not engage with you in talking about the long and difficult debates that we had inside council over what the best thing to do was.’

Six strikes have already taken place across England during the dispute.

In May, it looked as though a breakthrough had been reached in the dispute after both sides agreed to a new deal.

But in July, the government announced it would impose a new contract after junior doctors and medical students voted to reject the contract brokered between health leaders and the BMA.

Further action

The strikes in September are set to be followed by further dates yet to be confirmed, but the BMA said it would call off action if the government agrees to stop the imposition.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said 100,000 operations and about one million appointments would be hit by the action.

Mr Hunt said he was surprised by the move as the BMA had previously recommended the new contract as a ‘good deal’.

‘Now they are saying we are going to have a devastating strike, the like of which the NHS has never seen,’ Mr Hunt told the BBC.

Serious concerns

Dr Ellen McCourt, who chairs the BMA junior doctors' committee, said junior doctors still had serious concerns over the contract.

‘The government has consistently said this is about creating a seven-day NHS, when junior doctors already work weekends and it's been shown that the government has no answer to how it will staff and fund extra weekend care.

‘We want to resolve this dispute through talks, but in forcing through a contract that junior doctors have rejected and which they don't believe is good for their patients or themselves, the government has left them with no other choice.’