The BMA has just announced that junior doctors are to take part in three more strikes and launch a judicial review as part of their fight against the government’s decision to impose a new contract in England.
The three strikes in March and April will each last 48 hours, longer than the 24 hr strikes previously held but emergency cover will be provided.
The stoppages will be held on:
Wednesday 9 March from 8am
Wednesday 6 April from 8am
Tuesday 26 April from 8am
The BMA stated that the government failed to give proper consideration to the impact this contract could have on junior doctors. It stated that ‘the Government appears to have failed to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to its decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England.’ The specialities hardest hit by the increase in weekend working will be those which already have the worst recruitment problems such as A and E and paediatrics.
This strike will only affect non urgent care and only junior doctors. The BMA was careful to point out that ‘other doctors and NHS staff will continue to provide high-quality patient care and employers will put in place plans to minimise disruption to other staff and, above all, to patients.’ It is mindful that continued public support for junior doctors is crucial.
The imposition of the junior doctor contract was a blow but in recent days there have been important announcements;
- Some NHS bosses have distanced themselves from suggestions they backed a new junior doctors contract being imposed, after their names were linked to a letter used to justify the move.Names of 20 chief executives appeared on a letter from the government’s chief negotiator, advising it to do “whatever it deems necessary” to end the row. Jeremy Hunt then said a contract would be imposed.But 14 out of 20 of the letter’s signatories say they do not support the decision. [HSJ]
- A Department of Health memo leaked to the The Guardian claimed that a departmental update on the proposals circulated in mid-January stated that plans for a seven day NHS could be seriously flawed. It said the DoH “cannot evidence the mechanism by which increased consultant presence and diagnostic tests at weekends will translate into lower mortality and reduced length of stay“.The document reportedly said more than 11,000 new staff will be needed to function identically to weekdays, including 3,000 nurses and 4,000 doctors, requiring an extra £900 million each year. This contradicts the Government claim that it could be cost neutral. It also raised concerns that community and social services would not be able to cope with increased discharges at weekends.
- The Government’s former patient safety adviser said that ‘Ministers should apologise to junior doctors and row back on imposing a new contract in England’ at a meeting at the important Kings Fund think tank “You cannot achieve excellence in combat with your future workforce, it makes no sense at all.
- Separate opinion polls by Ipsos Mori and YouGov, found that people backing the junior doctors outnumbered those who did not, by two to one. Imposing the contract increased strong public support for trainee medics even further with one poll showing 66% supporting and only 16% against further strikes.