Junior Doctors Will Strike

[box]Rob Cleaver reports on news that industrial action will go ahead next month after 98% of junior doctors vote in favour.[/box]

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The proposed industrial action by junior doctors will go ahead next month after the results of the recent BMA ballot revealed that 98% of junior doctors voted in favour of striking.

An estimated 37,000 junior doctors, a turnout of approximately 76%, took part in the ballot with 98% voting in favour of full strike action and 99.4% voting for industrial action short of a strike. The action will take place on the 1st, 8th and 16th December. The last time that junior doctors took this action was over 40 years ago also over the proposal of a new contract that was seen to be leading towards junior doctors working dangerously long hours above and beyond what their contracts outlined.

Elective operations and clinics will have to be cancelled on the three days next month to provide consultant cover during the industrial action but many consultants are on-side with their junior colleagues as the discussions over the renegotiation of their contracts are set to begin shortly.

The government and the BMA have been at loggerheads for the best part of a year over the proposals for a new contract for junior doctors. The Department of Health is desperate to implement its election pledge for a 7 day NHS and the threat of imposition of a contract seen by many doctors as being unsafe and unfair led to BMA walking away from talks, the subsequent large protests on the streets of London and now the prospect of strike action. Johann Malawana, chair of the Junior Doctors’ Committee at the BMA blames Jeremy Hunt’s intransigence for the escalation of the situation.

Speaking last week to TMS, Johann said “my job isn’t to deliver strike action, it is to deliver a safe and fair contract. That’s the job of the junior doctors committee and the BMA. What we need to do is see a government that is actually willing to engage in meaningful conversation where they don’t impose a contract and are actively trying to have a framework for that contract that is both safe and fair.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander has written to David Cameron calling for him to intervene by involving independent mediators to encourage the reopening of negotiations in order to avert the strike action from taking place as “trust has fundamentally broken down”. At the same time the BMA have offered to go to ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to facilitate this. At the time of going to print the government has not responded to this offer.

With a mandate as strong as this, the BMA will now proceed with arranging the strike action as doctors prepare for the picket line in twelve days time.

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