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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)

  • @Dr Horvath Howard

    There's a reason for anonymity my friend..... We have a unreasonable government and a negligent regulator in police state Britain.

    You're on the LMC and GPC and maybe proud of this but just look at what the profession has become on your watch sir.........

    Emigration is commonplace. Newbies and middle career are quitting and the more senior colleagues of ours are jumping into early retirement. It's all happened because of people like yourself who have been absolutely toothless when dealing with the govt.

    Take a look at what the juniors have achieved by taking the fight to the government and them tell me you're effective in your position

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  • Vinci Ho

    Typical Agent Hunt
    Don't forget he is infected with the FOV220,000 virus

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  • It's a cave in folks. Good old spineless BMA. The best advert for emigrating.

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  • The BMA are wet and have given in. Might as well leave for Oz now.

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  • I don't think they had an option other than to call off strikes today. The government no doubt hope that kicking the can down the road a bit will develop apathy amongst juniors so that turnout etc will drop when the next ballot happens, but hopefully they all remain resilient

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  • Please note the DoH has temporarily suspended it's unilateral implementation of the new junior doctor contract. It's disappointing the BMA called off the strike with just a temporary agreement from the DoH. They're buying time. We blinked first.

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  • good strategy by BMA
    - they can't be accused of striking at 'the worst time of the year'.
    - they were the ones who offered ACAS and Hunt refused and most of the public can see through Hunt now. Hunt gave an interview pre-ACAS were he was very uncomfortable trying to explain 'if' his door was open why he didn't want to go to ACAS and most people saw through that - he was trying political spin.
    - strikes are still on the table and this will continue to cause pressure on the government
    - Hunt has been shown to be weak as he ruled out ACAS and had to back down. in addition he went on about his door being open and willing to talk BUT he didn't actually do the talking - he let his staff do the talking so why is he needed?
    - things are not over yet and the BMA needs to go harder
    - the timing is good as the emergency GPC meeting will hopefully add more pressure - we just need the consultants to wade in as well
    - most of the public are on the doctors side as they see through spin and lies from the government.
    - the BMA need to question Keogh as how can you go from a report that says we don't know how many deaths are preventable and what causes the weekend effect to we need an end to our Monday to Friday culture. By undermining this logic the BMA will win the debate as Keogh' thinking is flawed.

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  • Vinci Ho

    May not be a bad idea with a strategy of talk , threat , talk , fight . Gentleman first and the scoundrel follows.Timing is interesting . One day of politics is too long.At the moment , the whole attention in the media is only about whether to bomb Syria or not .........

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  • One of the BMA's preconditions should be to get rid of this odious little man ( and do everyone a favour)

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  • Hunt has fooled the BMA again.He will impose this contract.

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