Junior doctors escalate struggle – after Tories refuse to talk

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Junior doctors on the picket line at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddingdon on 10th March – they have now stepped up their struggle
Junior doctors on the picket line at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddingdon on 10th March – they have now stepped up their struggle

The BMA yesterday confirmed an escalation of the junior doctors industrial action scheduled for April.

This follows the continued refusal by the government to step back from its decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors from August this year and resolve the dispute by re-entering talks.

The industrial action scheduled for 26 April will change from 48-hour emergency care only to a full withdrawal of labour by junior doctors between the hours of 8am and 5pm on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April. Other doctors and staff will continue to provide care during this time. 

The 48-hour emergency care only action due to start at 8am on Wednesday 6 April and end at 8am on Friday 8 April will go ahead as planned. In a ballot of junior doctors, 98 per cent of those who voted supported taking industrial action, including a full withdrawal of labour.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said yesterday: ‘No junior doctor wants to take this action but the government has left us with no choice. In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors’ outstanding concerns, the government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country.

‘The government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected.

‘We want to end this dispute through talks but the government is making this impossible. It is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers.

‘Faced with this reality what else can junior doctors do? We deeply regret the disruption to patients and our message to patients is clear; this action is wholly avoidable but the government must choose talks over imposition.

‘The rest of the UK has taken a different, constructive path on junior doctors’ contracts with only the Health Secretary in England choosing imposition over talks.  The fact that tens of thousands of junior doctors have taken industrial action and 98 per cent of those who voted support action including a full withdrawal of labour, demonstrates the continued strength of feeling amongst junior doctors about this politically driven imposition.

‘Junior doctors are committed to ensuring the best possible care for their patients and already work seven days a week, around the clock under the existing contract. In focusing on junior doctors, the government is seeking, yet again, to gloss over the fact that the biggest barrier to a seven-day NHS is not doctors’ contracts, but a chronic lack of investment and a shortage of staff. 

‘For the sake of patients, doctors and the future of the NHS, the government must put politics to one side, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks.’