NHS England and Health Education England have written directly to all junior doctors in England to tell them strike action will ’make it much harder to reach an agreement’ by causing ’a hardening of attitudes’.
The letter, sent by NHS England, Health Education England and NHS Employers at the request of Department of Health-appointed lead negotiator for the Government Sir David Dalton, also lists a number of new concessions in the Janaury proposal for a new junior doctor contract that was rebuffed by the BMA earlier this week.
These include, for example: guaranteed 48-hour breaks after three or four consecutive night shifts or five long days; maximum eight consecutive working days; and a ‘guardian of safe working’ to be appointed at every hospital trust.
But on the key point of enhanced pay for evening and weekend working, the letter offered no concession, stating that the current definition of Saturday and evening work as unsociable hours ’are out of line with the wider economy and that comparator groups to doctors generally do not receive unsocial hours enhancements’.
The letter said: ’As doctors in training, you will now be wrestling with the difficult decision as to whether to participate in the action. Inevitably strike action that disrupts patient care can lead to a hardening of attitudes and make agreement more difficult.
’The action the BMA has announced, particularly withdrawing emergency cover, potentially makes reaching an agreement much harder.’
It comes as the BMA and Government negotiators were due to reconvene talks led by mediator Acas today, with a view to avoid a strike called for Tuesday next week.