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GPs go forth

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)

  • Strike should continue until all preconditions to negotiation are removed

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  • Patient safety, yes, but no one cares about doctors and their safety, least of all the BMA. I speak as one who like everyone else has worked 100s of 80 hour weekends,weeks without rest in 1/2 rotas curtesy of the BMA ,unwilling as ever to define safety for its members. The BMA still goes on and on about junior doctors safety without once defining what that might be. If the junior. Doctors had not stood up, the BMA never would

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  • For a long time I really thought that Mr Hunt really cared about something more than himself. Seems I was naive and wrong. Mea culpa. Strike must go ahead if any progress is to be made unless we have a complete capitulation from the government to maintain at least the status quo with regard to hours, pay and conditions. Where is HEE in all this? If it is responsible for ensuring there are enough doctors and that they are properly trained, doesn't it have a view on the proposed new contract, the effect on hours, standards and training, emigration and so on?

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  • Mr Hunt wrote today: ’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.

    If you are so concerned Mr Hunt - fall on your sword a you are ultimately responsible for the Strikes and the risk to safety by trying to impose a dangerous and imbalanced contract - where 22/23 clauses were not down for negotiation.

    If anyone dies due to the strike as top man at DOH you will be responsible for corporate manslaughter as it is your actions which will make or break this strike.

    Good Luck!

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  • I note that Bruce Keogh is still on the medical register. I assume someone is organising a 'round robin' complaint to our regulator regarding his disparaging remarks about our entire profession. If you are organising a complaint, please post a link.

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  • So where has bold Sir Jeremy gone? Have there been any sightings??? Has he bravely turned his tail and fled or what????

    How can he negociate if he is no where to be found?? Who will negociations be with as this is very important. If he could not be bothered to turn up it will say alot. He could not even be bothered to announce it himself.

    I doubt he will turn up and I think it will just be an underling who sounds sympathetic but has the ability to negociate nothing useful. Just a delaying tactic from this invisible man......

    As the instigator of this all, he will be soley responsible for any injuries which result from the strike.

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  • The first Drs strike in the history of the NHS?
    Is there something going on?
    Jeremy Hunt - what a diamond.
    Absoulte proof you don't need to be either clever or gifted to get rich and become a politician in the UK
    You just need to have gone to Eton.

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  • 'BMA continues with strike threat despite conciliation talks taking place'


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  • I fully support the juniors strike and sincerely hope they will continue with the current plans unless the conditions of no imposition of contract etc are accepted. The government will try all sorts of tactics - no quarter should be given!

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  • We work harder and are paid less than any comparable profession at night time and for unsocial able hours, already. If JH is really concerned about patients let him increase the number of doctors and pay them an appropriate fee at weekends. He expects the doctors to do it for nothing extra. That cannot and must not happen. We are an altruistic profession, but we have to be paid for extra hours at extra rates. We are NOT a charity.

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