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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)

  • I think withdrawing emergency care is wrong personally. There could be many people dying as a result of this...

    I understand that hunt negotiating with hunt is never going to achieve anything but prior to this JDs had a measure of sympathy from the public....... be warned that the media will have a field day if deaths result from this

    Hopefully in this game of chicken the government will blink first

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  • I would have suggested longer (indefinite?) emergency-only strike, rather then this, very risky.

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  • Junior doctors are doing the right thing and as a GP - I fully support our juniors.

    They have to do this. Why? when the NHS collapses after they leave - no one can say they didn't do their best to warn everyone. So rather than trying to leverage emotional blackmail and bully the juniors listen to what they are saying and lean on your local politician to support them. Juniors have a choice - come August they can locum, emigrate, change career, study etc. But once the NHS is gone - it's gone. There are only 4 months to save the NHS.

    Many assume come August it will be business as usual - I don't think so. How many need to leave to cause a collapse ?5% ?10%.

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  • Other healthcare professional23 Mar 2016 8:55pm
    What evidence do you have to base your remarks on?

    The strike will be a consultant led emergency strike. Who would you rather see as a patient a Consultant or a junior doctor? It is completely baseless to say it will be unsafe for patients. The emergency units, and wards will be staffed by senior consultants with many years of experience.

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  • Sessional/Locum GP23 Mar 2016 9:32pm

    Many thanks for your support and comments. It is also time for the GP'S and Consultants to stick up for the NHS and negotiate a better deal with their own contracts.

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  • You all need to listen to Dr Hamed Khan a GP who is standing up for junior doctor's and the NHS:

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  • I had another hell-ish day at work. We have no choice to do this. Our current situation is unsustainable and unsafe. We have to use force, if we give-in, expect things to get worse and patients suffer as a result. I fully support the juniors.

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  • I think the public will support the junior doctors. I worked in NZ in the 1990s and there were 3 strikes over a few weeks when I was there. No emergency cover was provided. The nz govt was trying to bring in UMT style payments like the uk to replace the treble time payments nz doctors got after midnight. The govt capitulated with each strike being called off after an hour or so. It was weird watching ambulances arrive at a and e with one consultant running around trying to cope whilst the juniors watched from the picket line. The press at all times supported the doctors....

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  • @0.41 today

    The problem is that the world is now a different place. We have a very determined Govt that has support from right wing media that will not support JDs. Joe Public is fickle. They have been very supportive of JDs so far, but judging by the comments in the DM today, they have switched allegiance. The question is does this matter?

    My view is that JDs have to win. If they capitulate JDs will increasingly walk away and then it will be the same onerous contracts that will be forced on GPs, Consultants, Nurses, Porters.. Quite frankly all of us are already being forced to work far harder than at any time in the past. If this deteriorates no doctor will be able to mentally cope with full time work in the NHS. Many already can't and only work part-time.

    So despite possibly losing public support This is the only way to go.

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  • Our biggest problem is that Doctors have little support from any Politicians, and that includes the Labour Party. Osborne had to rapidly back down from proposed cuts to the disabled because many Politicians, including Tories, opposed them. Few Politicians support Doctors. They want us to have huge reductions in income. If everyone gets a 30% reduction it is expected that 30% more activity will be achieved.

    So will you accept a 30% reduction in income or are you mentally able to carry out 30% more work as will be forced on us all?

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