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Government launches consultation on changing NHS strike legislation

Government launches consultation on changing NHS strike legislation

The Government is considering introducing new industrial action regulations which would require NHS doctors and nurses to provide ‘minimum service levels’ during strikes.

The new minimum service level (MSL) regulations would be put in place ‘to protect patient safety’, health secretary Steve Barclay said today.

It comes as hospital consultants are walking out today and will be joined by junior doctors tomorrow in the first day of a joint strike.

They will be walking out in September and October across four days, which will see ‘Christmas Day levels of staffing’ from both groups.  

The Government said that while voluntary agreements between employers and trade unions can be agreed ahead of time, ‘they can lead to inconsistency across the country’, come with ‘significant uncertainty’ as they are ‘based on goodwill’ and ‘not always honoured or communicated in sufficient time’ and that this creates ‘an unnecessary risk to patient safety’.

It is consulting on introducing MSLs that would cover urgent, emergency and time-critical hospital-based health services and is seeking views on a set of principles for setting MSLs in regulations.

But BMA council chair Professor Phil Banfield said that the union has been clear that any strike action taken by members preserves minimum levels of staffing to ensure patient safety.

He said: ‘If this Government was serious about patient safety, it would not have deliberately run down the health service over the last 10 years, with the terrible, adverse effects that austerity has had on the health of the nation every day. 

‘We have always maintained that consultants and junior doctors together, will never stage a full walk out and we have been clear that we are not planning to do so, with urgent and emergency care continuing to run. It is disingenuous for the Secretary of State to say otherwise.’

He said that this week’s industrial action comes as a result of this Government ‘failing to address the unprecedented staffing crisis that is engulfing our NHS’, and ‘betraying the doctors who they applauded through the pandemic’, by failing to value their work.

Professor Banfield added: ‘The only route to ending these strikes is for the Government to drop its opposition to negotiating a new pay deal and get round the table with doctors with a credible offer.

‘Rather than focusing on strike days, ministers should be looking to make sure that our health service is safely staffed for 365 days a year.’

Mr Barclay said: ‘This week’s coordinated and calculated strike action will create further disruption and misery for patients and NHS colleagues.

‘My top priority is to protect patients and these regulations would provide a safety net for trusts and an assurance to the public that vital health services will be there when they need them.

‘Doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8% and consultants are receiving a 6% pay rise alongside generous reforms to their pensions, which was the BMA’s number one ask.

‘In the face of ongoing and escalating strike action, we will continue to take steps to protect patient safety and ensure the health service has the staff it needs to operate safely and effectively.’

Last month, the doctors’ union had announced a new consultants strike, as it was revealed ministers have refused to meet the doctor’s union since May.

Junior doctors have staged 19 days of strike action since March, while consultants have staged four days, and there are at least five more planned in the coming weeks, including four days of combined action with junior doctors.

Earlier this year, the union issued guidance for GP trainees as it said it is ‘essential that this significant cohort demonstrates the strength of feeling amongst the profession by participating fully in this industrial action’.

The BMA had previously confirmed that GP trainees would not be barred from protesting during the junior doctor strikes, but would only be able to join a picket line at or close to their place of work.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 19 September, 2023 6:06 pm

This corrupt and destructive government is just trying to destroy the NHS that so many of us over so many years, have worked so hard to grow.
Poor Mr Bevan would be spinning yn y hedd.
Full support to the striking staff : who have sustained minimum safe service levels throughout all strikes so far on a voluntary basis, but should not be threatened by this wicked bad employer!
if Government still refuses to even consider meeting Staff Representatives, perhaps we should all leave and take our patients with us to a new country?

Martin Williams 20 September, 2023 8:53 pm

Mr Barclay said: ‘The last decade’s coordinated and calculated Tory austerity will create further disruption and misery for patients and NHS colleagues.

‘My top priority is to harm patients and these regulations will provide nothing that is not already there in the way of an assurance to the public that vital health services will be there when they need them.

‘In the face of ongoing and escalating Tory incompetence, we will continue to take steps to reduce patient safety and ensure the health service does not have the staff it needs to operate safely and effectively so that we can throw the doors to private investment wide open.’

There. Fixed that for you Steve. No fee. Let’s not mention the 16 billion of taxpayers money spaffed up the wall on duff PPE via your mates. Clearly that could have gone a very long way to fixing the problems that you and your mates have engineered. Seems your short trousered friend
Is keen to keep a lid on it. Bevan had it absolutely right about you lot. (No- look it up….)

A Non 21 September, 2023 8:51 am

Politics is the problem. Conservative / Labour they are both equally clueless. This is not some how a ‘Tory’ thing. Its a UK politician thing. Ultimately its actually a UK electorate thing. The patients you are seeing. Moaning they aren’t getting the service they want whilst moaning that would need to be paid for and moaning the politicians they elected are ignoring the problem as they told every

A Non 21 September, 2023 8:52 am they would.