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Independents' Day

Junior doctors' strike suspended after last-minute agreement

The BMA has suspended strike action over the junior doctors contract tomorrow after reaching an agreement with NHS Employers and the Department of Health to enter ’direct and meaningful’ negotiations.

The detail of the agreement says that ’following productive talks under the auspices of Acas’ the BMA has agreed to ’temporarily suspend its proposed strike action’ planned to begin tomorrow.

In return, the Department of Health has agreed to ’temporarily suspend implementation of a contract without agreement’.

Despite the successful conciliation talks, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was a ‘tragedy’ that the BMA did not talk earlier, and said that doctors now ’realise that what we are trying to do is the best thing for patients and for doctors’.

Under the plans for strike action, junior doctors were due to only provide emergency care on 1 December, followed by a full walk-out from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday 8 December, and another at the same time on Wednesday 16 December.

The ballot of junior doctors earlier this month showed an almost unanimous support for strike action, with 99.4% of junior doctors voting in favour of industrial action short of a strike, while 98% voted in favour of strike action on a turnout of 76%. 

At the same time, the BMA also announced that it had approached Acas with a view to holding conciliatory talks with the Department of Health over the health secretary’s plans to impose a contract that will remove safeguards for unsafe working, and will see rewards for weekend work taken away.

The Government had originally refused the talks, but it U-turned on the issue last week, and talks had continued over the weekend.

The statement - published by Acas on behalf of the BMA, the Department of Health and NHS Employers - says: ’We intend to reach a collaborative agreement, working in partnership to produce a new contract for junior doctors, recognising their central role in patient care and the future of the NHS.

’All parties are committed to reaching an agreement that improves safety for patients and doctors and therefore NHS Employers have agreed to extend the timeframe for the BMA to commence any industrial action by four weeks to 13 January 2016 at 17:00, to allow negotiations to progress.

’Within that timetable, the BMA agrees to temporarily suspend its proposed strike action and the Department of Health agrees similarly to temporarily suspend implementation of a contract without agreement.’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘Following conciliatory talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health, we have agreed to suspend industrial action in England, which was due to begin at 8am tomorrow. The Government has also agreed not to proceed unilaterally with the introduction of a new contract. Today’s decision is in the best interests of patients, doctors and the NHS.’

But he added: ‘At that point, we will need to consider whether industrial action should be reinstated.’

Mr Hunt tweeted: ’Victory for common sense. Strike shouldn’t have been called w/o talking to govt first but great for 7 day services.’

He later told Sky News: ’The tragedy is that it took so long for the BMA to want to actually sit around the table and discuss it. But when they did, as doctors, I think they did realise that what we were trying to do was the best thing for patients and for doctors. I hope now we can make progress.’

Under the Government’s proposals, GP trainees would see the removal of a guaranteed supplement that ensures they receive pay parity with their secondary care collegues.

Please note: This story was updated on 1 December at 9:35 to incorporate Jeremy Hunt’s comments, and after official confirmation that strike action had been suspended.

Readers' comments (39)

  • Oh please!
    Temporarily suspend the threat of unilateral contract imposition until agreed strike dates have passed and then return to unilaterally imposing said contract.
    Is the BMA really so naïve as to fall for this?

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  • Weasel words. I watched his poor statement (seemed on the edge to me) live on the Internet while on holiday in Canada (researching emigration, too tbh,) and I note he was very careful to say this was a "temporary" lifting of the threat to impose his terms. Not good enough, ergo strike and be damned. Too late now for a settlement. Regroup and discuss again on Wednesday when images of young docs in scrubs on picket lines have led the news and he has that haunted look about him. Incidentally, see that great lump Clarke chipped in during the debate; he looks like he might need a junior doctor or too before long, you think he'd play nice.

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  • We have the momentum. All or nothing. STRIKE NOW.

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  • DO NOT GIVE IN BMA or you will lose your work force

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  • You see BMA RCGP and all you so called leaders - LMC etc... The govt blinked first

    It's a damn shame you didn't take action years ago. I might have stayed in the uk. Still your impotence has given me a better life abroad.

    Yet I feel for my colleagues trapped in a life of mediocrity at best working in a once great profession.

    You ought to be ashamed of yourselves because many of the younger crowd have made their minds up already to leave, and that's before their training is even over

    -- Don't you just love these anonymous blowhards who even from abroad don't have the guts to print their name yet slate the entire representation system from their easy chairs?
    No not ashamed "anonymous" but you should be
    Pete Horvath-Howard Med Sec Dyfed Powys LMC, GPC Wales and GPC UK and proud of it

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  • The BMA website is not working. They are able to update content to some degree as they have a temporary page stating that they are working on fixing it. Why then, have they not made any comment on today's events? Every junior doctor in the country must be wondering what they will be doing tomorrow and whether their leaders have been fooled by Jeremy. And the BMA says.... nothing!

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  • Sessional/Locum GP|30 Nov 2015 5:41pm - the only comment to pick up temporarily suspend the threat of imposing the contract.
    go to work tomorrow but keep the other days of action on the calendar in large bold letters unless the threat to impose the contract is totally withdrawn.

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  • Hunt has utter contempt for the principles of the NHS.He will swing whichever way he can in the capitalist breeze. He is blind to double standards viz BSkyB dealings. Online sources regarding his own company dealings verify his msrket driven mania. He must be fully resisted until his lack of ethical principles has him kicked out.

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  • To: Pete Horvath-Howard Med Sec Dyfed Powys LMC, GPC Wales and GPC UK and proud of it

    I completely agree with the person you are critisising.

    By the way, pride comes before a fall.

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  • Yeah well you anonymous guys tend to stick together ;)


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