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I received this by email an hour ago.

junior doctors strike no 2

Dear Dr Kooner,

As you know, the BMA re-entered talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health in December around the junior doctors’ contract dispute. Following receipt of the government’s final offer, those talks ended this afternoon and, regrettably, without the significant progress we were seeking. As a result, junior doctors in England will be taking industrial action for the first time in 40 years.

Today we have written to trusts across England informing them of junior doctors’ intention to take industrial action on the following dates:

Tuesday 12 January to Wednesday 13 January – emergency care only

Tuesday 26 January – Thursday 28 January – emergency care only

8am to 5pm, Wednesday 10 February – full withdrawal of labour

We have done our utmost to avert this situation. We entered talks in good faith, talks which only came about following our invitation to involve Acas. We came prepared to negotiate in the best interests of the profession and of patients. Sadly that intention does not appear to be shared by the government.

Our message to the government could not have been clearer, yet they have chosen to misinterpret and misconstrue our intentions. Fairness, safety and quality have always been at the heart of the argument. We returned to talks with an open mind and a hope that, at last, the government would recognise the contract talks for what they always could have been – a once-in-a-decade opportunity to improve patient care.

It is an opportunity which the government has spurned. And it has done nothing to rebuild the trust it has squandered with the medical profession.

No junior doctor wants to cause disruption to their patients. But sometimes, there are no good choices, just choices that are less harmful than others.

The greatest harm would come from accepting a contract that undermines the quality of patient care and the safety of doctors. The action the junior doctors are taking is for all doctors, and for all of our patients.

Yours sincerely
Mark Porter
BMA Chair

As I see it there are two main sticking points;

1. Jeremy Hunt has been seeking to extend “plain time”, the hours in which a trainee doctor receives standard pay, from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday to 7am-10pm every day except Sunday, though he later offered to make it 7pm on a Saturday. This is in order to create the seven day NHS   [ normal working for throughout the week] without spending more .

2. To remove the obligation to work to the European Working Time Directive

The Directive was designed to protect the health and safety of workers by restricting the number of hours an individual can work and by imposing minimum rest requirements for all workers. Limiting working hours can help reduce the likelihood of doctors getting tired and therefore improve the quality of service they can deliver to patients.An individual doctor has the right to opt out of the working time regulations, it maintains that it is the right of all doctors to work within the regulations should they so choose. No doctor should be coerced or pressurised into opting out.

For Junior doctors it means:

Working hours have been reduced from an average of 56 per week to 48, calculated over a period of 26 weeks. Doctors are entitled to choose to work additional hours if they wish.They are entitled to a period of 11 hours continuous rest a day (or compensatory rest to be taken at another time if this is not achieved). A day off each week , or two days off in every fortnight (or compensatory rest), a 20 minute rest break every 6 hours (or compensatory rest)

I am old enough to have been a junior doctor before the European Working Time Directive. It used to be common place to have badly designed rotas and to have to cover doctors who were off sick or on leave [I am sure to save the costs of a locum] and have to be on call 72 hrs in one stretch, without and rest breaks. I can assure you it was not safe for patients! I hope the BMA manages to get this point across to the public and conteract the government claims that it is all about money and that the BMA is obstructing improvements in patient care.