The BMA has said further industrial action is ‘inevitable’, and it is currently looking at the legality of the Government’s decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors.
In an email to junior doctors on Saturday, the BMA’s junior doctor committee chair Dr Johann Malawana confirmed that they were exploring ‘every available avenue’ of legal action to overturn the decision to unilaterally impose a contract.
He added that the JDC would ‘consider escalating any action’ to end the imposition, which could see the first total withdrawal of junior doctor labour, including staff involved in emergency care.
Dr Malawana explains further action would be subject to the BMA’s internal legal processes, with further details due shortly.
A full walkout including emergency staff was part of the ballot of junior doctors in November last year, and 98% of voters – 76% of the total 36,000 junior doctors – voted in favour.
The strikes were deferred until this year after conciliatory talks between the BMA and NHS Employers made headway.
But talks broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.
Since health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on 11 February that he would impose a contract the JDC has been canvassing opinion and considering its options.
Following a meeting of the committee on Saturday, Dr Malawana wrote: ‘JDC has made the clear decision that further industrial action is inevitable and that we will consider escalating any action to achieve our aim to end the imposition.
‘The exact nature of further action will need to go through the legal processes we have internally within the BMA and we will be making an announcement on that action with the notices to the NHS as has happened previously in very short order.
‘In addition the BMA is exploring every available avenue of legal action to prevent imposition, and you will be hearing from us in due course as action on this front begins.’
It also highlights that the BMA will run a review of workforce morale, across all professions, and a public facing campaign to ensure that patients understand the dispute and the concerns that have led junior doctors to industrial action.
Pulse approached the Department of Health for comment but had not received a response at time of publication.
What is the dispute about?
The dispute arose over an overhaul of junior doctors contract which is seeking to force hospitals to rota more doctors at weekends by removing unsociable hours payments for junior doctors.
The final contract which Jeremy Hunt is set to impose has seen several concessions introduced during negotiations, but will still redefine weekdays from 7am to 9pm, and Saturdays from 7am to 5pm as ‘sociable hours’ which would not attract pay premium.
The change would be balanced by an increase in basic pay of 13.5% and caps on the number of consecutive nights and long-shifts junior doctors can be asked to work.
The BMA says the move would lead to junior doctors working unsafe hours that could harm them and patients. The Government has disputed these claims, as well as a suggestion that changes could lead to a pay cut of as much as one third