Keogh breaks agreement with BMA

Student nurses are fighting Health Secretary Hunt alongside the junior doctors
Student nurses are fighting Health Secretary Hunt alongside the junior doctors

THE BMA has rebuked the NHS National Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh for breaking an agreement with it in an attempt to organise strike breaking.

He wrote to Trust Medical Directors, on January 8, to seek ‘for the periods of industrial action . . . in conjunction with your local BMA representative, around the circumstances in which you could reasonably ask certain junior doctors to return to work to mitigate the risk of harm to patients. ‘Circumstances and trigger thresholds will be different at each trust and need to be considered in light of what is normal at each trust.’

Dr Mark Porter wrote to Keogh on January 11. He wrote: ‘I’m writing in response to your letter of 8th January. As you will imagine, following the discussion at our meeting on 23 November 2015, the content of this letter came out of the blue, as did that which you sent to medical directors.

‘The latter has been widely circulated over the weekend, causing concern and anger among doctors, at a time when trust in the government and the independence of NHS England is at an all-time low across the medical profession.

‘As you know, in advance of the last planned industrial action, we met to discuss and agree a protocol for escalation of requests to call off the action and encourage junior doctors to return to work at a local, or national level. Our respective staff agreed a protocol whereby trusts experiencing a very serious incident (such as a transport or security incident with many casualties that had overwhelmed a hospital) would follow the NHS England Escalation Framework to your office. You would then decide at national level whether you wished to escalate any requests to the BMA for consideration.

‘As recently as the morning of 8th January, your office agreed that the same procedure would operate on 12 January in a telephone discussion with the BMA. I am, therefore, greatly concerned that, without any reference to the BMA, you wrote to medical directors across England, suggesting criteria under which the action may be called off at a local level.

‘Your letter to medical directors has been interpreted by many doctors as a further attempt to thwart lawful industrial action in favour of which junior doctors voted almost unanimously. I fully understand your statutory duties and your need to discharge them. This is, of course, your responsibility and that of managers within Trusts – it is not the responsibility of junior doctors, while taking lawful industrial action to secure a contract that is safe for patients and fair for doctors.

‘I have today contacted chairs of local negotiating committees across England and junior doctors, explaining the escalation procedure and recommending that, in the event that they are approached by management to call off the action within their trust, they advise management to adopt the agreed procedure which has been in place since 24 November 2015.’