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The waiting game

BMA continues with strike threat despite conciliation talks taking place

The BMA is undertaking conciliatory talks with the Government on Thursday morning, but has refused to call off the strike action planned over the next month until the Government removes the threat to impose a contract.

In a U-turn on Wednesday, the Government agreed to enter conciliatory talks with over the impending junior doctors strike, after health secretary Jeremy Hunt last week refused the BMA’s offer on talks.

Dr Porter said it was ‘encouraging’ that the Government had agreed to enter conciliation talks, and the talks are to take place at 10am on Thursday.

However, he said that it would not call off the strike until the Government removed the threat of a contract imposition.

The BMA has consistently said it would enter negotiations only if the Department of Health made commitments to not impose a contract, to ensure that safeguards around working hours remained, and to ensure that no junior doctors suffered a pay cut as a result of the changes.

It is also calling for Saturday and evening working to be rewarded above standard weekday hours.

The Government had been unwilling to give such guarantees, and junior doctors were forced to call off negotiations as a result.

The BMA held a ballot for industrial action earlier this month, which resulted in 98% of junior doctors voting in favour of full strike action.

The first action - which would see junior doctors continuing to provide emergency care - is scheduled for 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 planned action is in contrast to the industrial action held in 2012 in protest at the pensions changes, during which doctors continued to provide emergency care.

In a bid to stave off this action, Mr Hunt wrote on Wednesday: ’Patient safety has been my absolute priority through my tenure as health secretary. The extreme action planned in December poses a serious threat to that safety.

’Whilst I believe the right thing to do is to return to the negotiating table directly, it is very clear that any talks are better than strikes, so in the first instance I am very happy for my officials and NHS Employers to commence those talks during ACAS conciliation services.’

The BMA said that it was only informed of the offer at the same time as the media.

Responding to the letter, Dr Mark Porter said: ’It is encouraging that Jeremy Hunt has made a significant shift in accepting the BMA’s offer of conciliatory talks through Acas, finally recognising the fact that trust has broken down between junior doctors and the government.

’However, junior doctors and the public, who by now will be used to Jeremy Hunt’s political game playing, will not be surprised by the fact that he has waited until now to do the right thing.

’We hope to start these talks as soon as possible in order to reach a collaborative agreement for the benefit of patients and the NHS. Importantly, Jeremy Hunt must finally remove his threat of imposition in order to defer Tuesday’s industrial action.’

The BMA has since confirmed that the talks have been arranged.

 Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee and a former GP, broke the news of the Government’s U-turn to Pulse earlier today.

She said: ’It would be a good idea for the BMA to show goodwill. Many junior doctors who have spoken to me have said they do not want to go on strike. Now would absolutely be the right time to suspend strike action.’

Readers' comments (30)

  • Looks like Hunt has been leaned on!
    Hopefully the push is next.

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  • Playing the guilt card again with
    ’Patient safety has been my absolute priority through my tenure as health secretary. The extreme action planned in December poses a serious threat to that safety.
    He gives a damn to patient safety and patient care like a local NHSE guy who behind closed doors boasted in presence of our local LMC leaders 'I don't care what patients say' - It's the same breed - the fear of a strike and losing his chair is what is driving him to talks. So, he isn't a 'reliable partner' to paraphrase a local NHSE manager - now a Head somewhere in NHSE. BMA should not go along with this ploy.

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  • Not surprising Sarah Wollaston takes the government line. Suspending the duke would be exactly the wrong thing to do. And Jeremy Hunt saying that strike action would endanger patient safety is just political scaremongering after all the emphasis on patient safety in the plans made.

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  • Vinci Ho

    No harm to have a 'talk' as part of the game since a talk does not gaurantee result(s). Strike goes on....

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  • Squeaked out on the day Gideon dominates the news with his zombie economics. And Jezza has the nerve to say "trust me, I'm an honest broker". Bull. Do not let him off the ropes.

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  • Unless we stand up to Hunt now the NHS will disappear to American insurance companies we must fight for the social revolution that took place after the war that the tories have been trying to destroy ever since

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  • So where is Jeremy????? Plotting his next move as he is still avoiding his collegues, reporters and junior doctors.

    Still not showing doctors the common curtisy of talking to the BMA and going straight to the press, again giving him the unfair advantage of putting his side across without any balanced view from the other camp.

    This is still so once sided despite telling the BMA as they will not have had any time to think about the response from themselves or the juniors when the papers are written for the next day publications.

    He probably only told the BMA at the same time so they could refute the claim of only going to the press. So this is not an improvement it is more spin!

    No change there then. There should be a campaign to Hunt down the Hunt!

    Perhaps he has emigrated to Australia and will not want to show his face when the juniors go on strike. Perhaps he does not want the photos of him being jeered by striking juniors/mps/anyone else as this would not be good for his career.

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  • Get a picture printed of parliament debating chamber.We can then plat where the wally and spot the *unt.

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  • Continue strikes until threat of imposition of contract withdrawn .

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I said before , this government has shown signs of vulnerability. Just six months after the general election, Ozzy had to U turn today in spending review(remember how many U turns last government had!). BBC news called him 'lucky' chancellor but what about the health secretary ?
    Play your cards right, boys and girls, one day of politics is too long......

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