New strikes loom as junior doctors seek to 'escalate' action

Junior doctors are set to call new strikes in their ongoing fight with the government over new contracts.

The BMA Junior Doctors Committee executive told members yesterday that it will seek approval from the BMA Council for a 'rolling programme of escalated industrial action beginning in early September'.

An email from new JDC chairwoman Dr Ellen McCourt to members said the committee executive had voted to reject the new contract in full and call for new negotiations.

She said: ‘In response to the government's silence, JDC exec has today made a formal request for a special meeting of BMA Council to authorise a rolling programme of escalated industrial action beginning in early September.’

In a message on social media, executive member Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis told members: ‘It's time to dust off our picket arm-bands. An escalated fight is on.’

Dr Gourtsoyannis added: 'This is the trade union dispute which will determine the lives of generations of patients and NHS workers. It's the trade union dispute of this century. That's no exaggeration. This is about to be ratcheted up by an order of magnitude.’

Last month junior doctors voted by 58% to reject a revised contract following renewed negotiation held in May. The government has said it will impose the contract from October.

Doctors believe the new contract, which the government wants to use to enable its seven day NHS policy, is unsafe and unfair and that it discriminates against women. 

In May, following a series of strikes including all-out action, JDC members were set to consider indefinite walk outs.

Serious concerns about the contract

Dr McCourt said: ‘Junior doctors still have serious concerns about the proposed contract, particularly that it will fuel the current workforce crisis, and that it fails to treat all doctors fairly.

‘With just eight weeks before the first group of doctors are moved onto the new contract, progress needs to be made and time is running out. Efforts by the BMA to resolve the dispute through talks have been met with an unwillingness to engage and, at times, deafening silence from the government. This is despite a promise from Jeremy Hunt just last month that his door is always open.

‘Jeremy Hunt needs to act now, lift the imposition and address junior doctors’ concerns. If he does not then junior doctors are clear that they are prepared to take further industrial action.’

NHS Employers chief executive Daniel Mortimer said: ‘Industrial action achieves little or nothing, but places pressure on already stretched teams and services and causes worry, distress and disruption for patients, carers and their families.

‘Over the last two months we have been talking with the Junior Doctors Committee and have, along with the Department of Health and others, responded positively to their concerns regarding the guardian role and whistleblowing.

'Employers were hopeful that the continued positive engagement on other important topics - such as deployment, flexibility in training, additional training for those returning from career breaks, costs of training, mutual recognition of syllabus, study leave and the gender pay gap in medicine - were a sign of how serious employers, Health Education England and the Department of Health were about honouring the agreements reached with the BMA in November, February and May.’

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