Chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee Dr Johann Malawana said in a message to members before Christmas that while there had been ‘significant ground made’ in negotiations there remained ‘a couple of absolute areas of disagreement’.
Dr Malawana added that unless an ‘acceptable outcome’ could be reached by 4pm on 4 January ‘the BMA will need to commence serving notice as per its mandate, to the NHS, for industrial action the following week’.
The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that the government considers conciliation talks with the BMA - called in November after 98% of juniors voted for strike action over the contract proposal - effectively over, with almost no chance of a deal being reached.
However the Guardian reported this morning that ministers are preparing a last-ditch offer to avert industrial action as the NHS faces its most difficult time of the year.
Junior doctor strikes
Dr Malawana told BMA members: ‘We absolutely hope the government seriously takes account of the desire of junior doctors to not undertake industrial action, but our absolute resolve to do what is necessary to protect our patients and ourselves is there and cannot be dismissed so easily.’
He added: ‘The BMA is a trade union and should we need to protect our current and future members from an unfair contract. I, and the JDC, have absolutely no intention of standing by whilst the government pushes current and future generations of doctors out of the NHS and to leave the UK. It simply is unacceptable to devalue and denigrate doctors and the medical profession to the point where medicine in the UK is no longer a profession that the majority of doctors would recommend.’
In a new year message to the profession BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said talks to resolve the dispute ‘hang in the balance over this new year as we press the government for real understanding of doctors’ strength of feeling’.
Dr Porter said: ‘If you attack the people who provide the care in the NHS, attack the quality of care they are able to give their patients, attack their motives for providing that care, they feel it personally and respond passionately. The NHS is fundamentally a set of values. We will not allow these values to be condemned for the sake of political expediency.
‘The government’s attempt to impose an unsafe and unfair contract on junior doctors was an assault on the safeguards that enable them to practise safely, and on the quality of patient care.
‘That is why thousands took to the streets in those vehement, inspiring demonstrations around the country. And yet still there was such a lack of understanding from Whitehall that the health secretary suggested that thousands of highly educated, highly motivated junior doctors were somehow being duped; that if only they read the proposals for themselves, they would come to a different view. They did read them - 98% voted for industrial action.’
A DH spokeswoman said: 'We have been making good progress with the BMA, and look forward to further discussions in the New Year.
'As we have consistently said, talks are always better than strikes and we are prepared to talk about anything within the pay envelope as long as we improve patient safety by moving towards a 7-day NHS. Our proposals offer better basic pay and safety for junior doctors, with a shorter working week.'