Junior doctor strikes escalate as BMA plans full walkout

Junior doctors are set to escalate industrial action over the government's decision to impose a new contract, after BMA leaders announced that England's first full walkout - including emergency staff - would go ahead next month.

The BMA announced plans for three 48-hour strikes earlier this year after health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that a new contract would be imposed following a breakdown in negotiations.

The first of these strikes took place last month, and a second 48-hour strike by non-emergency doctors planned for Friday 8 April will go ahead as planned

But the third 48-hour strike, planned for Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April, will now involve a full walkout. This will be the first time the BMA has taken action that goes further than a walkout by non-emergency staff.

Junior doctor strikes

BMA junior doctors committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana said: 'No junior doctor wants to take this action but the government has left us with no choice.  In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors’ outstanding concerns, the government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country.

'The government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected.

'We want to end this dispute through talks but the government is making this impossible, it is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers. Faced with this reality what else can junior doctors do?

'We deeply regret the disruption to patients and our message to patients is clear; this action is wholly avoidable but the government must choose talks over imposition.

Jeremy Hunt imposed contract

'The rest of the UK has taken a different, constructive path on junior doctors’ contracts with only the health secretary in England choosing imposition over talks. 

'The fact that tens of thousands of junior doctors have taken industrial action and 98% of those who voted support action including a full withdrawal of labour, demonstrates the continued strength of feeling amongst junior doctors about this politically driven imposition.

'Junior doctors are committed to ensuring the best possible care for their patients and already work seven days a week, around the clock under the existing contract. In focusing on junior doctors, the government is seeking, yet again, to gloss over the fact that the biggest barrier to a seven-day NHS is not doctors’ contracts, but a chronic lack of investment and a shortage of staff. 

'For the sake of patients, doctors and the future of the NHS the government must put politics to one side, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks.'

A DH spokesperson said: 'This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible - and will inevitably put patients in harm's way. If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as the promised to do through ACAS in November, we'd have a negotiated agreement by now - instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.' 

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