Junior doctors join 140 pickets as BMA demands talks to end contract dispute

The BMA has urged the government to re-enter talks and end the dispute over its decision to impose the new junior doctor contract, as the union reports thousands of junior doctors took to the streets in its fourth period of action.

Junior doctors on strike outside Tooting Bec station, London
Junior doctors on strike outside Tooting Bec station, London

Thousands of junior doctors have joined more than 140 picket lines across England to protest against the government’s decision to unilaterally impose a contested contract for junior doctors, the BMA has said.

The current 48-hour strike – the fourth time junior doctors have taken to picket lines over the new junior contract – started 8am Wednesday 6 April and will continue until 8am Friday 8 April.

Doctors say the contract is unfair and will damage patient care. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said junior doctors will recognise the contract is good for them once they see the details and accept that imposition was the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, legal proceedings from both the BMA and Just Health – a junior doctors group founded by GP trainees – have been launched against the government over the imposition.

Contract dispute

Further action is scheduled for 26 and 27 April, with junior doctors set to escalate action to provide neither standard work nor emergency cover between 8am and 5.30pm on these days. Other NHS staff and doctors will continue to provide these services over this period.

Junior doctor leaders said the planned action could be ‘wholly avoidable’ if the government retuned to negotiations.

BMA junior doctor committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana said junior doctors did not want to take action, but they had been left with no choice.

He said: ‘The government is trying to impose a contract that is unfair and could undermine the long-term delivery of patient care. The fact that junior doctors have again turned out in their thousands demonstrates the on-going anger and rejection of this contract imposition.

‘It is not only doctors who oppose the government’s plans; patient groups, senior managers and the government’s own safety adviser have all raised questions about the government’s approach.

‘The government has admitted that the new contract must enable employers to roster doctors for less money across seven days, but junior doctors already work seven days a week, around the clock under the existing contract.

Junior doctor strikes

‘Devaluing the work we do is not the way to increase seven-day services. It will only serve to demotivate the current workforce and will risk doctors voting with their feet, which will impact patient care in the long term.

‘Junior doctors deeply regret any disruption caused to patients and don’t want to escalate action any further but by continually ignoring our concerns, the government is leaving us with no other option.

‘Any future action is wholly avoidable, but the government must get back around the negotiating table and end this dispute through talks.’

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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