Junior doctor strikes suspended by BMA amid patient safety fears

The BMA has suspended plans for a wave of five-day junior doctor strikes over the coming months amid concerns that the NHS would be unable to deliver safe services if the unprecedented withdrawal of labour went ahead.

Dr Ellen McCourt: junior doctor contract strikes suspended
Dr Ellen McCourt: junior doctor contract strikes suspended

The union remains opposed to the junior doctor contract that health secretary Jeremy Hunt plans to introduce from October, but will now draw up alternative actions to oppose it.

BMA leaders said the decision to halt the strikes followed 'feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and discussions with NHS England about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service if industrial action planned for October, November and December were to go ahead'.

BMA junior doctor committee chair Dr Ellen McCourt said: 'In light of feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide-ranging debate among junior doctors, the BMA has taken the decision to suspend planned industrial action.

Junior doctor strikes

'We still oppose the imposition of the contract and are now planning a range of other actions in order to resist it, but patient safety is doctors’ primary concern and so it is right that we listen and respond to concerns about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service.

'We hope the government will seize this opportunity to engage with junior doctors and listen to the range of voices from across the NHS raising concerns about doctors’ working lives and the impact of the contract on patient care. If the NHS cannot attract and keep those doctors on whose dedication and professional skills it relies, there will be no recognisable health service in England.

'Our fight does not end here. For many people this whole dispute has turned on how the NHS will assure quality care over seven days. It has highlighted the need for an open and honest debate led by the BMA on how this will be achieved. We call on our colleagues across the medical profession, other healthcare professionals, and the government and patient groups to engage with junior doctors on this.'

In September, the health secretary claimed that the wave of five-day strikes planned by the BMA would lead to 1m delayed hospital visits and 100,000 cancelled appointments.

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