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Junior doctors to withdraw emergency care in escalation of action

Junior doctors will fully withdraw their labour, including emergency care, in an escalation of their industrial action, the BMA has announced – the first instance of this ever happening in the NHS.

A statement from the BMA said that the 48-hour industrial action planned for 26 April will now change to full withdrawal of labour between 8am and 5pm on 26 and 27 April.

This will follow earlier action – a 48-hour walkout on 6 April – which will continue as planned.

The chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee Dr Johann Malawana said the Government had left them with ‘no choice’.

The committee had planned earlier this year to withdraw all emergency cover, but did not go through with the action as talks with the Government were progressing.

Junior doctors have already held a 48-hour strike since the imposition of the junior doctor contract, with two more planned for early and late April.

The BMA is also taking the Government to judicial review over the ‘embarrassing’ revelation that the Government failed to carry out an equality impact assessment before imposing a new contract on junior doctors in England.

Dr Malawana said today: ’No junior doctor wants to take this action but the Government has left us with no choice. In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors’ outstanding concerns, the Government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country.

’The Government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected.

’We want to end this dispute through talks but the Government is making this impossible, it is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers. Faced with this reality what else can junior doctors do?’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt last month announced that he was imposing a contract on junior doctors after talks broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ’This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible – and will inevitably put patients in harm’s way.

’If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.’

What the imposed contract includes

The junior doctor contract imposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt includes:

  • An increase in basic pay of 13.5%;
  • Redefining the definition of ‘plain time’ to include Saturday from 7am to 5pm;
  • Paying a premium of 30% for Saturday ‘plain time’ working, if the doctor works one in four weekends;
  • Reduce the definition of ‘safe hours’ from 91 to 72 hours a week;
  • Doctors will not work more than four consecutive nights – down from seven currently;
  • The maximum number of consecutive ‘long days’ will be reduced from seven to five;
  • A new ‘Guardian’ role will be introduced, with the authority to impose fines for breaches to agreed working hours, which will be invested in educational resources and facilities for trainees.

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Readers' comments (75)

  • Vinci Ho

    Freedom from fear
    Freedom from regret....

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  • This is wrong. Nothing justifies this. Brings the whole profession into disrepute and terminally breaks bond with the public. This is so wrong.

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  • Good.This is the only thing that will make this government listen. I hope they extend it to a further 48 hour complete walk out with no emergency cover. If the junior doctors lose public support then so what?

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  • 02:47 pm- If nothing justifies this, then how do you justify what the Government and Hunt is doing with the Junior doctors, the consultants and Gps. How do you justify the long term suffering of not only doctors, but patients and NHS as well due to the imposition of contracts.
    Think about it- Hunt tried to target the supposedly weakest link in the NHS- with Consultants/ GPs/ Nurses to follow suit.
    Its because of GPs like yourself, the government gets away with any and everything.
    I salute the junior docs to have a pair, about time the rest of us follow suit and some out there, grow a pair.

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  • I fully support the junior doctors but there must be another way. If anyone dies as a result of their withdrawal from emergency care they will soon lose public support.

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  • 252 This is not a battle The BMA have backed into a corner by being belligerent and now are ruining the professions reputation with the public. This will all end in tears and it could have been so different - witness the 2016/7 GP settlement which was achieved by negotiation

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  • 02:47pm - there is no bond with the public for GPs and junior doctors any more. They elected this government. This government is running an unsustainable and workforce destroying system. The juniors have nowhere else to go - you could argue that even this is too timid. Perheps even a longer but harsher withdrawal would bring the government to some realism in a shorter period of time, saving patients and doctors in the medium term.

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  • Time to stop fretting about public support.

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  • Its about time this happened. For all those people that think doctors should not strike should go into work!

    I can not see how the government is willing to pay for bail outs of banks and willing to keep the banking industry in the UK (which is good for the economy) but will not invest in the future of health care!

    The DDRB has suggest pay rise for the medical profession of years but the government has rejected them. Their own parliamentary pay review board has suggested a pay increase for themselves and they have accepted that as "it is an independent body" isn't the DDRB?

    Doctors should not have to work longer hours for less pay with their profession being put through the mud by other doctors and the media!
    The NHS was set up for a 7 day emergency service. We have that. We do not have a 7 day routine health care. No country does. It is unsafe and not good for patient care to work shift patterns that will be expected of doctors with the new contract.

    We should stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone that helps run the NHS! From nurses to porters. As well as the teachers and firemen and other public bodies who are being drowned of resources and working harder and harder.

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  • Supported. Self respect, dignity and pride in the work clinicians do and the years of sacrifice for an unvomparable cause. The real public will support the only lasting clean profession out there. The rest will appreciate you one day.

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