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What leaders are saying about the junior doctors’ strike

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair

’We regret the inevitable disruption that this will cause but it is the government’s adamant insistence on imposing a contract that is unsafe for patients in the future, and unfair for doctors now and in the future, that has brought us to this point.

’Patients are doctors’ first priority, which is why, even with such a resounding mandate, we are keen to avert the need for industrial action, which is why we have approached Acas to offer conciliatory talks with the health secretary and NHS Employers to clarify the conflicting information coming from government over the past weeks.

’The health secretary is right when he says this action is ‘wholly avoidable’3. Our message to him is that junior doctors have today made their views perfectly clear but that it is still possible to get back around the negotiating table to deliver a contract that is safe for patients, contains the necessary contractual safeguards to prevent junior doctors being overworked and properly recognises evening and weekend work.’


Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP

‘Junior doctors are the future of our profession, they have now spoken and made their position very clear.

‘The current situation has led to the lowest morale amongst doctors in a generation.

‘We are incredibly concerned about the effect that this will have on the future of our profession and the wider NHS – particularly in terms of efforts to recruit and retain enough doctors to deliver safe patient care to our patients.

‘We must do whatever we can to support our junior doctors and make them understand how valued – and how essential to the future of patient care – they are.

‘Doctors choose medicine because they genuinely want to care for their patients and contribute to the health service. This decision is an overwhelming indication that junior doctors do not think the proposed contract will enable them to do this.

‘We are pleased that the BMA have invited the Government into talks with an independent arbitrator – we fully support this course of action, which we have previously suggested as the most promising way forward.

‘Our NHS is being pushed to breaking point, particularly as we head towards what will be a very difficult winter for our general practice and hospitals. A prompt resolution is in everyone’s best interests and the College will do everything we can to support this.’


Danny Mortimer, chief executive, NHS Employers

‘Today’s announcement is disappointing and will result in thousands of NHS patients, their families and carers being concerned that their planned care and treatment will be disrupted during December. NHS organisations are now working hard to keep disruption to a minimum but it is inevitable that appointments will be postponed, surgery rearranged and clinics closed.

‘By taking the unprecedented step of not providing emergency cover for two of their days of action, the BMA are putting the NHS and their colleagues under even greater strain during one of its busiest periods impacting even further on our ability to provide safe and effective care for our patients.

‘Even at this late stage, we call for the BMA to return to talks. The new contract offers increases in basic pay, concrete safeguards on working hours and pay protection to ensure that doctors won’t lose out. I think the public will question why the BMA are causing such significant disruption when the offer of talks remains open.’


Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC

‘We are disappointed that it has not yet been possible to resolve this dispute and we hope that both sides will renew their efforts to seek a satisfactory outcome.

‘We welcome the BMA’s public commitment to minimise the impact on patients – that must now be everyone’s first priority.

‘As we have made clear, we expect doctors in training who plan to take part in the BMA’s action to take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that arrangements will be in place to care for their patients, and to inform their senior colleagues and employers of their intentions in good time. Working within their organisations, senior doctors will now start working with employers and the wider healthcare system on plans to make sure there is a safe service, so that the impact on patients is kept to a minimum.

‘Doctors have a legal right to take industrial action. They care deeply for the welfare of patients and we are confident they will act responsibly in what is a tense and difficult situation. However, as our guidance makes clear, if a doctor’s actions caused patients serious harm, or put them at risk of serious harm, we have a statutory duty to investigate, and the doctor must be prepared to justify the decisions they have made.’


Professor Terence Stephenson, Chair of the GMC:

‘Doctors in training are a hugely valued part of the medical workforce. We recognise the strength of feeling which has been expressed through the results of today’s ballot.

‘Whatever their views, we expect and are confident that senior doctors will do everything they can to make sure patients receive a safe service on the days when action is being taken. And of course in the event of a major incident we know and would expect that the entire profession would respond immediately.

‘It is important at this difficult time that all of us in the profession remember our responsibilities – to each other and to our patients.’


Eddie Saville, general secretary, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HSCA)

‘We understand the frustration of junior doctors and their feeling that there is no alternative to taking action. Today’s overwhelming support for industrial action reflects a groundswell of opinion that cannot be ignored.

‘In the event of any industrial action HCSA members will be working in hospitals to ensure the continuity of emergency care – our priority will be to ensure high-quality care for those patients who need it the most.”

‘Our primary concern, as hospital consultants, is for the future of patient care in the NHS.

‘We’ve said all along that a fair deal for doctors in training will balance safety, fairness and work-life balance.

‘That means proper protections for junior doctors against overwork, excessive hours or staff shortages, and a pay and career structure that retains and attracts future generations of consultants.

‘We do not believe that a good deal for our NHS can be achieved through the imposition of a new contract. Ultimately only a negotiated settlement will lead to an outcome that enshrines these principles.’