Junior doctors to strike again next week

Junior doctors will strike on February 10, the British Medical Association has said
Junior doctors will strike on February 10, the British Medical Association has said

JUNIOR doctors will go on strike next week after talks with the Government failed to reach an agreement.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the talks had “foundered following the Government’s continued refusal to put reason before politics in agreeing a fair solution for an already overstretched junior doctor workforce”.

The full walkout that had been planned has been scrapped.

Instead, junior doctors will provide emergency care only from 8am on Wednesday, February 10 to 8am on Thursday, February 11.

Thousands of operations, procedures and appointments will be cancelled as junior doctors stage their protest.

The BMA previously suspended plans for 48-hour industrial action on January 26 on the basis that some progress was being made in the talks.

But the sticking point remains the time at which premium rates of pay kick in for doctors working weekends.

The Government has made some concessions in a bid to break the deadlock with the BMA, drafting in Sir David Dalton in the hope of reaching an agreement.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay.

An offer from the Government in November said doctors would receive time and a half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time and a third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.

But in a new offer, dated January 16, Sir David said that, as part of an overall agreement, a premium rate of pay could kick in from 5pm on Saturdays rather than 7pm.

Furthermore, premium pay could start at 9pm Monday to Friday rather than the original offer of 10pm.

Dr Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, welcomed the involvement of Sir David but said an agreement could still not be made.

He said Sir David’s “understanding of the realities of a health service buckling under mounting pressures and commitment to reaching a fair agreement has resulted in good progress on a number of issues.

“It is, therefore, particularly frustrating that the Government is still digging in its heels.

“The Government’s position - based on ideology rather than reason - risks souring relations with an entire generation of junior doctors, the very doctors who the Secretary of State has acknowledged as the backbone of the NHS.

“The Government’s entrenched position in refusing to recognise Saturday working as unsocial hours, together with its continued threat to impose a contract so fiercely resisted by junior doctors across England, leaves us with no alternative but to continue with industrial action.

“And to those who would urge junior doctors to resolve their concerns in any way rather than industrial action, I ask ‘What else would you have us do?’

“We have talked in good faith with the Government over the past few months, but have seen no willingness on their part to move on a core issue for junior doctors up and down the country.

“The Government misrepresents junior doctors as a block to a seven-day NHS, but they already work every day of the week. What we are asking is that this is reflected in fair and affordable recognition of unsocial hours.”