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BMA suspends this month’s industrial action over safety fears

The BMA has announced that it is suspending the industrial action scheduled for later this month, due to NHS England concerns that the service will not cope. 

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Ellen McCourt said that the committee was concerned about plans for patient safety over the week of 12 September if the five-day strike went ahead.

In a statement, the BMA said that it had met with NHS England, who said they needed more time to plan for the industrial action – despite the BMA giving the statutory seven days notice.

It added that the action over October, November and December would continue unless the Government stopped its plans to impose the contract.

At the same time, health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that 1 million hospital appointments would need to be cancelled as a result of the planned strikes.

The latest development has come amid criticism of the BMA’s stance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges – which itself came under fire from member colleges, including the RCGP.

Earlier today, the GMC and Health Education England intervened, warning that doctors’ training and registration were being put in jeopardy if they decided to take part in the strike.

Dr McCourt said: ’Over the past few days we have been described as radical, we have been described as militant, we have been described as prioritising ourselves over our patient’s safety.

’This is not true. Patient safety remains doctors’ primary concern. For the first time in this dispute NHS England have told us that a service under such pressure cannot cope with the notice period for industrial action given.’

She said that the committee has listened to concerns of doctors, patients and the public: ’Thousands of you have been in touch, your level of anger over the Secretary of State’s imposed contract remains high, but at the same time you want to keep your patients safe during industrial action.

’The BMA is therefore suspending the industrial action planned for the week of 12 September. The remaining programme of industrial action stays in place.’

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Hunt welcomed the decision to cancel these strikes, but warned that the future dates for industrial action would cause problems. 

He said: ’We currently anticipate around up to 100,000 elective operations will be cancelled and up to a million hospital appointments will be postponed, inevitably impacting on our ability to hit the vital 18 weeks performance standard.’

A DH spokesperson said: ’The public will be relieved that the BMA has decided to call off the first phase of these unprecedented strikes, so this is welcome news. But if the BMA were really serious about patient safety, they would immediately cancel their remaining plans for industrial action which, as the GMC says, will only cause patients to suffer.’