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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)

  • The JDs have to win. If not we will all (doctors, nurses, PAMs, porters, ambulance staff..) have a 30% drop in income and working 7/7. Support the JDs

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  • Don't worry about losing public support.

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  • 4:07pm This imposed junior doctor contract and the decade of abuse of GPs cannot continue. Both will cause the unsustainable loss of doctors in total through early retirement, career change, emigration and burnout. Many medical students are now qualifying and immediately choosing other careers. Hardly anyone is choosing GP and if they do, it is part-time (full time). The awful truth is that the public will sleep walk into a collapsing service, that from a GP perspective, is in its terminal death throws. Worrying about their support and opinions is irrelevant. You can't use a contract as a tool if you haven't got a workforce. This government is destroying the doctor workforce. Turning this around will require drastic measures and this will only be the start.

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  • This is the right thing to do OUR juniors have no choice we should back them.Look at the crap deal the GPC have got for us and try to sell it as a victory.If only the GPC had the fight and gumption of OUR juniors.The BMA old guard needs a good clear out we need young blood with the will to fight for us and our patients not just to roll over and let the tickle our belly with and OBE etc to be placid. Malawana needs to be promoted the old guard should be ashamed.

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  • I'm a GP, and fully support the junior doctors in their fight: but this is a mistake. As soon as the Daily Mail get so much as a whiff of the first child to die because of a lack of emergency cover, watch the public support melt away faster than a snowflake in hell. There are other possibilities, and frankly making the strike emergency cover only over an indefinate period would have been a much more sensible option.

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  • Never in history as there been such underfunding of the NHS.

    They came for social services.
    Then they came for junior doctors.
    Then they will come for nurses.
    Then they will come for GPs.
    Then they will come for consultants.

    Then the NHS will be completely privatised with all of us regarded as simple 'workers' with terrible terms and conditions. We will not even have any control over the management of clinical conditions. This will all be done through protocols with big pharma making loads. Many of the jobs done by doctors will be given to poorly trained staff

    We must support the JDs

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  • Withdrawing emergency cover is extremely risky and unnecessary. In 1975 the juniors didn't withdraw emergency cover but still won because of increasing waiting lists which are very bad news for the government. Stick to plan A. Alienating the public and juniors losing their support is Hunt's strategy

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  • will consultants cover? will that not be safer? less tired staff?

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  • The Junior doctor's are showing the cardigan GP'S the way forward. Junior doctors will not accept unfair imposition of the contract. The cardigan GP'S have to wake up and smell the coffee!!

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  • Consultants will be there to ensure safety during these strikes so stop saying it will be unsafe. Elective work will be cancelled. It will not be unsafe for patient's being seen by Consultants!!

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