Junior Doctors Walk Out Inevitable as Government Refuses to Reopen Talks

It now seems inevitable that the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS will take place later this month, as the government is reportedly refusing to reopen talks with junior doctors’ representatives.

The ongoing row over pay and conditions shows no signs of abating, and it now seems that strike plan for 26th and 27th April will indeed go ahead.

Both of the strikes will see junior doctors completely removed from the working environment between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm.

There are fears some departments will have to close if there are not enough consultants to cover.

Particularly contentious is the insistence of the government that the new contract should retain its provision for normal working hours to be redefined.

Under its terms, normal working hours will be extended from 7pm on weekdays to 10pm and will include Saturday from 7am to 5pm for the first time.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, believes that the government is effectively sticking its head in the sand, and called on Jeremy Hunt and the rest of the Conservative party to address the issue satisfactorily in the foreseeable future.

“If the Government thinks that by sticking its head in the sand this dispute will end, it is very much mistaken. By refusing to negotiate it is wholly responsible for future industrial action. Let me be clear: no doctor wants to have to take any further action. They want to be at work, doing what they do day in, day out, caring for patients, but this contract will be bad not only for doctors but for the long term delivery of patient care.”

Malawana also emphasised that the union is by no means taking an intransigent position on the issue, and that it had the backing of numerous authoritative organisations.

“Patient groups, medical colleges, senior managers and the government’s own safety adviser have all raised questions about the government’s approach, yet still it refuses to listen. It is not too late to avoid further action and end this dispute through talks.”

Responding to the comments of the British Medical Association head, a spokesperson on behalf of the Department of Health questioned the position of the union, and defended the stance of the government.

“The escalation of strike action by the BMA will inevitably put patients in harm’s way. We have continually sought a negotiated solution over three years of talks, during which there were two walkouts from the BMA, and now there’s only the one issue of Saturday pay outstanding. If the doctors’ union had agreed to negotiate on that as they promised to do in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now.”

 

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