Junior doctors have called of all three planned strikes, but still threaten alternative forms of resistance to the imposition of the working hours contract by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The British Medical Association and its junior doctors committee had planned to hold walkouts lasting five days beginning on 5th October.
Further strikes were planned in November and December, as the profession rebels against the contract from the government, considered to be inappropriate, unfair and even dangerous.
But after lengthy discussions, it has been announced all industrial action will be called off permanently after a majority vote against strikes.
The announcement came after the committee members voted to keep militant junior doctor Ellen McCourt in her post as chair.
McCourt states that the junior doctors committee continues to oppose the new contract, but that patient safety has ultimately been a greater concern in this instance.
“In light of feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide-ranging debate amongst junior doctors, the BMA has taken the decision to suspend planned industrial action. We still oppose the imposition of the contract and are now planning a range of other actions in order to resist it, but patient safety is doctors’ primary concern and so it is right that we listen and respond to concerns about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service,” McCourt commented.
Continuing her statement, McCourt hoped that the postponement of the strike action would lead to a more open dialogue between doctors and the government.
“We hope the government will seize this opportunity to engage with junior doctors and listen to the range of voices from across the NHS raising concerns about doctors’ working lives and the impact of the contract on patient care. If the NHS cannot attract and keep those doctors on whose dedication and professional skills it relies, there will be no recognisable health service in England”.
She also made it clear that this is by no means the end of potential industrial action from junior doctors, and that further strikes could occur once the dust settles.
“Our fight does not end here. For many people this whole dispute has turned on how the NHS will assure quality care over seven days. It has highlighted the need for an open and honest debate led by the BMA on how this will be achieved. We call on our colleagues across the medical profession, other healthcare professionals, and the government and patient groups to engage with junior doctors on this.”
Considering that the issue has already rumbled on for the best part of a year, it seems likely that there will be no easy resolution.