Junior doctor strikes risk serious harm to patients, warns Jeremy Hunt

Junior doctor strikes will put patients at risk, health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned in a letter to the BMA after last-ditch contract talks collapsed into acrimony on Monday.

The BMA confirmed yesterday that junior doctor strikes will go ahead on 12 January, with further action on two more dates this month.

In a bitter exchange of letters, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the BMA's decision to go ahead with strikes was 'extraordinary', claiming that agreement had been reached on 15 out of 16 points the two sides had agreed to discuss through the mediation service ACAS.

But a letter from BMA junior doctors committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana to NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer expressed 'surprise and disappointment' at the summary junior doctor contract deal put forward after talks through ACAS.

Junior doctor contract

The document put forward by the government was a 'misrepresentation' of the position reached in talks, the BMA letter said, and left the union with no option but to press ahead with strike action.

The BMA disputes the government claim that all but one point of negotiation had been resolved. It has also rejected a government statement that the final unresolved issue related to 'pay for weekend working'.

Both sides have agreed to continue talks through the mediation service despite the date for strike action having been set.

Mr Hunt has appealed to the BMA to suspend strike action, warning that 'any strike action risks serious harm to patients'.

GP morale

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said the ongoing dispute could put a whole generation of people off careers in medicine.

'We had hoped that the new year would bring a new start for negotiations and that a resolution could be found whereby our junior doctors both feel valued and able to keep our patients safe.

'This situation has led to the lowest morale among doctors in a generation. Unless it is swiftly resolved, our efforts to recruit thousands of additional doctors into the NHS over the coming years in order to keep the NHS sustainable could be fatally damaged.
'Doctors choose medicine because they genuinely want to care for their patients and contribute to the health service but they do not think the proposed contract will enable them to do this and clearly now feel that industrial action is the only way forward.'

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