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What happens next in the junior doctors’ dispute?



What is the row all about?

The Government has threatened to impose a contract on junior doctors and GP registrars that will remove penalties for trusts that make junior doctors work unsafe hours, will remove rewards for working on Saturdays and evenings and will see a guaranteed supplement for GP trainees taken away.

The Department of Health has said it will increase the basic pay by 11% – but this will be offset by the removal of weekend working rewards.

Why is the Government doing this?

It has said that the junior doctor contract is in line for reform, but the main reason is its commitment to a ‘seven-day NHS’. It has approved all the recommendations from the DDRB designed to ensure that junior doctors will cover weekend working with no increase in the overall budget for pay.

What has the BMA done about this?

It has said it will not come back to the negotiating table until the Government promises to remove the threat of a contract imposition, and commits to keeping safeguards for unsafe working and keeps Saturday and evening working as unsociable hours, and guarantees that no junior doctor will see their pay reduced.

With the Government refusing to give these guarantees, the BMA held a ballot for industrial action – including two days of all-out strike action.

What happened with the ballot?

Juniors voted almost unanimously in favour of both industrial action (99.4%) and strike action (98%). This was on a big turnout of 76% of the 37,000 junior doctors balloted.

What happens next?

The BMA has called on Acas to help resolve the dispute.

However, if no solution is found, the first day of industrial action will take place for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday 1 December, which will see junior doctors continuing to provide emergency care.

This will be followed by a full walk-out from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday 8 December, and another at the same time on Wednesday 16 December.

How will this affect GPs?

The GPC has produced guidance telling GPs that the action should not affect them too much as trainees are supernumerary. It has also said that it does not expect a surge in demand from A&E on the days of action for GP practices.

However, practices can expect GP trainees to picket them. Under industrial action law, employees are only allowed to picket outside their place of work.

The BMA has asked GPs to support those trainees taking industrial action.