Junior doctors urge government to return to talks as fourth strike begins

Junior doctors have again called on the government to get back to negotiations as their fourth strike over the imposition of a new contract began on Wednesday morning.

Over 5,000 procedures have been cancelled ahead of a second 48-hour walkout by tens of thousands of non-emergency junior doctors in the long-running contract dispute.

The government called the latest action ‘irresponsible and disproportionate’ and called on junior doctors to step back from planned all-out action later this month.

DH figures suggested that over 2,400 procedures had been cancelled since December because of the BMA’s industrial action campaign.

Junior doctor strikes

NHS England said the latest action, coming close after Easter, would be a difficult period, particularly on day two of the strike.

‘We have redoubled our planning efforts and will be closely monitoring events to make sure we can respond to any rising pressures,’ said NHS England’s national incident director Anne Rainsberry.

BMA junior doctors committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana said: ‘We deeply regret any disruption this action will cause to patients, but it is because we believe this contract would be bad for the delivery of patient care in the long term that we are taking this action.

‘By imposing a contract that junior doctors have no confidence in and refusing to re-enter talks with the BMA, the government has left us with no choice.

‘We want a contract that is fair for all junior doctors – not one which the government has admitted will disadvantage women - and ensures that they feel valued and motivated so that the NHS can retain the GPs and hospital doctors of the future.

Doctors' morale low

‘By pursuing its current course, the government risks alienating a generation of doctors. If it continues to ignore junior doctors’ concerns, at a time when their morale is already at rock-bottom, doctors may vote with their feet which will clearly affect the long-term future of the NHS and the care it provides.

‘Responsibility for industrial action now lies entirely with the government. They must start listening and resume negotiations on a properly funded junior doctors’ contract to protect the future of patient care and the NHS.’

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘This strike is irresponsible and disproportionate, and with almost 25,000 operations cancelled so far, it is patients who are suffering. If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we'd have a negotiated agreement by now. We ask doctors to look at the detail of the contract and call on the BMA to cancel their plans to escalate strike action even further.’

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