Junior doctors to strike next week but BMA steps back from full 48-hour walkout

Junior doctors will go on strike next week but the BMA has backed down over plans for a full two-day walkout, confirming that emergency cover will be provided during action reduced to 24 hours.

Junior doctor strikes planned for 26 and 27 January were suspended last month 'on the basis of early progress in talks' between government and BMA officials, union leaders said.

Now, a 48-hour strike set to begin on 10 February - originally planned to see a full withdrawal of services - has been reduced to action involving 24 hours in which junior doctors will provide emergency cover only, the BMA has confirmed.

The union said planned action had been scaled back to limit the impact on patients, but said a strike would go ahead because the government was still 'digging in its heels' on key issues.

A BMA statement confirmed: 'Rather than a full walkout, this industrial action will take the form of 24-hour emergency care only, beginning at 8am on Wednesday, 10 February and ending at 8am Thursday, 11 February.'

Junior doctor strikes

BMA junior doctor committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana said: 'Over the past few weeks, we have welcomed the involvement of Sir David Dalton in talks about a new junior doctor contract which recognises the need to protect patient care and doctors’ working lives. His understanding of the realities of a health service buckling under mounting pressures and commitment to reaching a fair agreement has resulted in good progress on a number of issues.

'It is, therefore, particularly frustrating that the government is still digging in its heels. The government’s position – based on ideology rather than reason – risks souring relations with an entire generation of junior doctors, the very doctors who the health secretary has acknowledged as the backbone of the NHS. The government’s entrenched position in refusing to recognise Saturday working as unsocial hours, together with its continued threat to impose a contract so fiercely resisted by junior doctors across England, leaves us with no alternative but to continue with industrial action.

'The government misrepresents junior doctors as a block to a seven-day NHS, but they already work every day of the week. What we are asking is that this is reflected in fair and affordable recognition of unsocial hours.

'The public has shown its support for junior doctors and we deeply regret the disruption which industrial action will cause. We have changed the form of the industrial action starting on 10 February so as to balance the need to send a clear message to a government putting politics before patients while minimising disruption, with excellent care continuing to be provided by doctors and other NHS staff on the day.'

Photo: iStock

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