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BMA suspends this month's industrial action over safety fears

The BMA has announced that it is suspending the industrial action scheduled for later this month, due to NHS England concerns that the service will not cope. 

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Ellen McCourt said that the committee was concerned about plans for patient safety over the week of 12 September if the five-day strike went ahead.

In a statement, the BMA said that it had met with NHS England, who said they needed more time to plan for the industrial action - despite the BMA giving the statutory seven days notice.

It added that the action over October, November and December would continue unless the Government stopped its plans to impose the contract.

At the same time, health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that 1 million hospital appointments would need to be cancelled as a result of the planned strikes.

The latest development has come amid criticism of the BMA’s stance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges - which itself came under fire from member colleges, including the RCGP.

Earlier today, the GMC and Health Education England intervened, warning that doctors’ training and registration were being put in jeopardy if they decided to take part in the strike.

Dr McCourt said: ’Over the past few days we have been described as radical, we have been described as militant, we have been described as prioritising ourselves over our patient’s safety.

’This is not true. Patient safety remains doctors’ primary concern. For the first time in this dispute NHS England have told us that a service under such pressure cannot cope with the notice period for industrial action given.’

She said that the committee has listened to concerns of doctors, patients and the public: ’Thousands of you have been in touch, your level of anger over the Secretary of State’s imposed contract remains high, but at the same time you want to keep your patients safe during industrial action.

’The BMA is therefore suspending the industrial action planned for the week of 12 September. The remaining programme of industrial action stays in place.’

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Hunt welcomed the decision to cancel these strikes, but warned that the future dates for industrial action would cause problems. 

He said: ’We currently anticipate around up to 100,000 elective operations will be cancelled and up to a million hospital appointments will be postponed, inevitably impacting on our ability to hit the vital 18 weeks performance standard.’

A DH spokesperson said: ’The public will be relieved that the BMA has decided to call off the first phase of these unprecedented strikes, so this is welcome news. But if the BMA were really serious about patient safety, they would immediately cancel their remaining plans for industrial action which, as the GMC says, will only cause patients to suffer.’



Readers' comments (23)

  • 5.29, thsi is not the GMC's business. This is an industrial dispute between employer and employees. There may be impacts on patient care but it is not for the GMC to unilaterally say that this is the fault of the JDs. I and most colleagues would put any blame for patient inconvenience squarely at the the door of Mr Hunt.

    The JDs are trying their hardest to protect the patients from the harm being inflicted on them by the imposition of a new contract which is not fit for purpose and will cause great damage to the NHS resources, morale and employee numbers. As such the JDs should be applauded for takng a stand against an aggressive SoS. The GMC should not be threatening them in this way.

    Your opening line is palpably laughable.

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  • Actually, doctors (by law) have the right to strike. This should also mean we have the right to have impact on striking. What's the point of allowing strike bu only if it has no impact??? It's a bit like telling the train drivers they can only go on strike as long as it doesn't affect transport of passengers.

    Also, if the statutory notice period is 7 days and is observed, I'm not sure how GMC can argue JDs caused harm when by statue, 7 days is deemed adequate to prepare for strike.

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  • sensible move.
    Public support is disappearing.
    Please re-consider going on strike for the good of the Profession.
    It's no good calling Doctors militants!

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  • The profession is in its death throws,someone put it out of its misery pleeese!

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  • I am a mental health therapist, not a doctor, and I work in both primary and secondary care. I strongly support the JDs. It seems like crunch time and that they are holding out for an NHS that is under fire from all sides, with these contracts preparing the way for more privatisation. I hope the public will respect them for heeding the advice of NHS England about safety - and as the above comment says, that the planned strike in October will possibly have more impact if it comes post-imposition. Could be argued that if NHS England say 7 days is not enough time to plan, then they are admitting that longer than 7 days could be??

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  • sadly we are between a rock and a hard place.

    if we strike then we always get accused of patient harm - if we don't then it's assumed we agree with the enforced proposals.

    i don't share rcgp or gpc rosy view that 5YF will deliver so all that's going to happen is doctors will leave little by little as we have no where to turn too - it's either 'roll up your sleeves' and put up with it or go. I'm in the 'going' group. Good luck to everyone else.

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  • I am now an observer from abroad having left 2 1/2 years ago. The BMA has made a mess of such a huge mandate. All I can see happening now is that JDs only have the option of resignation which many of them will now take and you will have a slow, steady haemorrhage of staff as the NHS dies. New Zealand has plenty of vacancies and will value you all and an upper age limit of 55 but look beyond Auckland.

    I think Jeremy Hunt has won a Pyrrhic Victory and the public do not realise how dangerous the NHS will have become with the New Contract until the next North Staffs comes to light.

    The thing that puzzles me is that politicians need health care and private care in the UK is primitive compared with the Antipodes as it cherry picks rather than providing comprehensive cover. So what do they plan to use when they get ill.

    Glad I moved abroad.

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  • I think calling off the strike is an absolute disaster.

    the junior dr's have no one to fear apart from themselves.

    NHSE were in a state of panic.

    Unfortunately the Junior Dr's leader has demonstrated complete incompetence. Understandable - the pressure must have been intense. But all of it was noise.

    The GMC have no jurisdiction, that's why they were asked(?told) to make such a statement.

    Senior civil servants within DOH and NHSE think the battle is over. I am told there has been a lot of smug celebration at their ease of victory.

    For my part it's a real shame. This could have been the NHS's last stand.

    I think we can safely say this was the day when the fight was lost.

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  • It was certainly a challenge and a difficult judgement call. IMHO i think BMA has really messed up this time. They need to pay for some advertising and buddy up to some journalists to get the doctor side of the story out - J Hunt is getting away with murder.

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  • BMA is an arm of the government - the sooner doctors realize this the better for them.They are there for your money and if they are able to achieve one thing n 5 years, let's understand that the government, their masters, agreed to let them show they had clout. GMC has a duty to protect Doctors and understands that safe doctors keep patients safe. I, therefore, find the rhetoric about solely holding JDs to account if one patient is harmed somewhat confusing.
    BMA still has members and that is the most worrying aspect of it all. How many of us still trust this organization which is continually sabotaging anything Doctors in general wish to change or improve?

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