Junior doctors in England will strike on the 12th January after talks between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government broke down.
The BMA has confirmed that strike action will be employed next week, with a 48-hour strike planned for the 26th January and a further walk-out set for the 10th February. The announcement comes after three planned strikes were cancelled in December.
The government has asked Acas to join the negotiations in a bid to find a satisfactory solution in the coming days. Despite the announcement from the BMA yesterday (4th January), both sides have suggested their keenness to continue negotiations in the time leading up to the planned walk-out next week.
The news comes after BMA representatives met with government ministers on Monday for the first time after the Christmas break. Due to union restrictions, the BMA was forced to decide whether it would take industrial action before midnight last night. The planned strikes are likely to lead to the cancellation of hundreds of routine and non-emergency procedures across the country.
Junior doctors are concerned about the proposition of a new contract that would mean most doctors working longer hours, which they feel is unsafe and would lead to an increased risk of mistakes and also put doctors at risk of exhaustion and stress. The government offered a pay rise of 11% last year, but on closer inspection the BMA was unhappy with the terms, as earnings for antisocial hours were altered. This would mean that doctors emerged with the same level of pay.
New plans propose to relax restrictions on working hours that point to doctors working longer hours. In a field where mistakes can potentially cost lives, the BMA is worried that doctors are not being appropriately safeguarded.
BMA leader Dr Mark Porter said that no doctors want to strike and leave patients without the services they are entitled to, but there is no option other than to take industrial action in order to ensure the government takes the BMA’s stance seriously.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt described the day’s events as “disappointing” and underlined his desire for an improved weekend service. Acas will now intervene to try and reach a resolution.