Doctors strike off but deal not yet reached

NHS Junior doctors representatives the British Medical Association, have today decided to postpone next weeks planned industrial action which was due to start next Tuesday.  The decision comes as talks continue this week between the doctors' union and the government about the disputed junior doctor contract in England.

The BMA said the move did not mean a deal had been reached.  The planned strike for Wednesday 10 February could still go ahead if the negotiations stall.  This particular stoppage is considered to be potentially the most disruptive as it is a complete walk-out, whereas next week's one - like the 24-hour strike held last Tuesday - still saw junior doctors provide emergency cover.

 The decision to call off next week's strike is good news for patients. Last week more than one in 10 operations were cancelled because of the 24-hour walk-out.

But it would be dangerous to read too much into the decision. The two sides are really no closer to agreement than they were before that stoppage.

Payment for weekend working, career progression and the safeguards being proposed to stop hospitals over-working doctors still remain the key sticking points.

The reasoning behind cancelling next week's stoppage is pretty obvious. It allows the British Medical Association to say it is thinking about patients, while also ensuring the on-going talks can take place without stopping - as they did last week - during industrial action.

By holding the first strike the BMA ensured its mandate for action did not expire. So it can call off this action safe in the knowledge it still has its strongest bargaining chip - a full walk-out on 10 February - up its sleeve.

 Commenting on the decision to suspend industrial action, BMA junior doctor committee chair Dr Johann Malawana said: "The BMA's aim has always been to deliver a safe, fair junior doctor contract through negotiated agreement.

"Following junior doctors' clear message to the government during last week's action, our focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks.

"On this basis, the BMA has today taken the decision to suspend the industrial action planned for 26 to 28 January, thereby giving trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients.

"It is important to be clear, however, that differences still exist between the BMA and the government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctor's working lives, and the recognition of unsocial hours.

"Significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted." 

For a daily update on the NHS junior doctors ongoing dispute with the government, please check in to the Corrigan Door website  newsblog page.


Posted on Wednesday Jan 20