Industrial action by junior doctors in England is set to take place next week after the Government ‘misinterpreted and misconstrued’ the BMA’s intentions for a new contract.
Talks over a new contract for trainees ended today following the Government’s failure to address doctors leaders’ concerns with robust contractual safeguards on safe working, and proper recognition for those working unsocial hours.
The BMA today announced three new dates for industrial action — the first taking place next Tuesday — which will go ahead unless progress is made in these key areas.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said the association had sought conciliation talks because it was clear that it wanted to agree a contract that was ‘good for patients, junior doctors and the NHS’.
However, he said: ‘After weeks of further negotiations, it is clear that the Government is still not taking junior doctors’ concerns seriously.
‘Furthermore, the Government has repeatedly dragged its feet throughout this process, initially rejecting our offer of talks and failing to make significant movement during negotiations.
‘We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option. It is because the Government’s proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long term that we are taking this stand.’
The BMA has today written to NHS trusts in England to inform them of the following planned industrial action:
- 8am, Tuesday 12 January to 8am, Wednesday 13 January — emergency care only
- 8am, Tuesday 26 January to 8am Thursday 28 January — emergency care only
- 8am to 5pm, Wednesday 10 February — full withdrawal of labour
In an email to members today, Dr Porter says the Government had spurned a once-in-a-decade opportunity to improve patient care and squandered its attempt to rebuild trust with the medical profession.
He says the BMA’s message for a safe contract could not have been clearer and it had ‘chosen to misinterpret and misconstrue our intentions’.
Three days of industrial action, due to begin on 1 December, were suspended at the eleventh hour last month following conciliatory talks between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health.
Since then, the BMA has been in talks with NHS Employers and the DH over a new contract for trainees in England. Meanwhile, the timeframe for the BMA to begin any industrial action was extended to 5pm on 13 January to allow negotiations to take place.
In November, 98 per cent of junior doctors balloted by the BMA voted for industrial action in response to the Government’s attempt to introduce an unsafe and unfair contract.
Despite this overwhelming mandate, the BMA sought conciliation talks through ACAS — talks that were initially rejected by health secretary Jeremy Hunt — which led to action being temporarily suspended to allow further negotiations.