Junior doctors in England will strike next Tuesday after talks with the Government failed to reach an agreement, the British Medical Association has said.
The 24-hour strike on 12 January will be followed up by 48-hour industrial action starting on 26 January as well as another day on 10 February, the British Medical Association has announced.
All three of the strikes will start at 8am. During the first two junior scheduled actions doctors will provide only emergency care. The final scheduled strike will involve a full withdrawal of labour, the BMA says.
The first strikes will hit at a time of heightened winter pressures on NHS services. Patient demand peaked at this time last year, leading to more than a dozen major incidents declared at NHS hospitals.
In an indicator that the health service could be entering a similar spell, the James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth declared a major incident today amid what it called "unprecedented demand".
The hospital’s chief executive asked patients not to attend A&E unless their condition was “life or limb threatening”. The hospital was attended by 93 ambulances on Sunday – almost twice the average.
The BMA called off a previously planned strike last year with hours to go before it began in order to conduct more negotiations with the Government.
These negotiations do not appear to have produced progress, however.
BMA council chairman Dr Mark Porter said ministers were not taking medics' concerns seriously and accused them of dragging their feet.
"Throughout this process the BMA has been clear that it wants to reach agreement on a contract that is good for patients, junior doctors and the NHS," he said in a statement.
"This is why, despite overwhelming support for industrial action, the BMA instead sought conciliation talks with the Government, talks which were initially rejected and delayed by Jeremy Hunt.
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
1/9 Elliott Livingstone
Two-year-old Elliott is a “cheeky” little boy who has a Thomas the Tank Engine sticker on his Berlin heart machine, which has kept him alive since his own heart failed eight months ago. Elliott has two tubes pumping blood around his tiny body. It keeps him alive but the machine has left him confined to the wards of Great Ormond Street Hospital until a new heart is found
2/9 Melissa Strickland
As the ward sister on Koala Ward, Melissa Strickland leads a nursing team with the challenging job of looking after children with craniofacial and neurological conditions. “You have to have all the skills and knowledge to do this job but personally for me you cannot do it unless you have passion but also compassion,” she said. “You don’t get used to the sad side of things but you do learn to manage it.”
3/9 Amy Willis
Amy Willis carries a discreet black medical bag everywhere she goes. It contains the cutting-edge HeartWare device that is keeping her alive. A smaller, more advanced version of the Berlin artificial heart, it was fitted in April after she was emergency airlifted to GOSH from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. The device means that 14-year-old Amy can be home in Flintshire this Christmas while remaining on the heart transplant waiting list. She is doing well but 15 per cent of patients with a HeartWare device or Berlin heart die while waiting for a new heart, so money raised by the appeal will also go to help researchers identify ways to keep children alive while they await transplant
4/9 Myra Bluebond-Langner
Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK. Professor Bluebond-Langner, who heads the research, said: “Paediatric palliative care is a relatively new field where practice has outstripped research. We look to change that.”
5/9 Finella Craig
Together with with Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner, Dr Finella Craig represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. “One of the worst experiences for a family is to witness their child in pain and discomfort, and for them to feel totally powerless to do anything about it,” said Dr Craig, a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at GOSH since 2002. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK.
6/9 Rowan Pethard
Like most little boys, Rowan Pethard loves playing football. At the start of 2015 the seven-year-old Spurs fan baffled his doctors in Hemel Hempstead with a string of coughs, colds, tummy bugs, aches, pains and rashes. It wasn’t until quite late on that doctors discovered he had leukaemia. He spent two days in intensive care while he had emergency chemo. He has two years of follow-up treatment ahead. “He’s amazing, a little superhero,” his mum said. “It makes it easier for his father and I and his brother to cope.”
7/9 Martin Elliott
Paediatric heart and lung surgeon Martin Elliott, 64, is one of the longest serving doctors at GOSH, leading groundbreaking research and treating thousands of patients over the past 30 years. His work has bridged the gap between surgery and research with skills ranging from heart-bypass surgery to correcting congenital lung disorders.
8/9 Ralph Frost
For Ralph the hardest thing about having to live at GOSH while he waits for a new kidney isn’t missing his toys. He has plenty of those and can terrorise the nurses by pushing his little red motorbike down the corridors of Eagle Ward. The hardest thing for the six-year-old is battling not to cry out during his nightly dialysis sessions. “It really hurts,” he said. “But the other kids are sleeping and I don’t want to wake them up.” Ralph suffers from nephrotic syndrome and is currently waiting for a kidney from his father, Nick. He’s called the kidney “Chase” and his parents, who have been trained to operate his dialysis machine, hope to be home by Christmas
9/9 Lynsey Steele
The strongest praise for Lynsey Steele, 33, comes from the parents of the children she helps. “The children here wouldn’t get by without Lynsey,” said Ralph’s mother Amie Frost. “If she wasn’t here then we’d have cracked up.” Lynsey’s role, which is funded by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and will be supported by The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal, is to help children play and relax, but also to have the difficult conversations explaining their treatment
"After weeks of further negotiations, it is clear that the Government is still not taking junior doctors’ concerns seriously. Furthermore, the Government has repeatedly dragged its feet throughout this process, initially rejecting our offer of talks and failing to make significant movement during negotiations.
"We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option. It is because the Government’s proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long-term that we are taking this stand."
Junior doctors voted by a huge majority to go on strike in a ballot conducted in November. 98 per cent of doctors balloted voted to strike on a turnout of 76 per cent. 99.4 per cent of doctors said they would take part in action short of a strike.
The strike centres around a contract dispute dispute in which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is attempting to redefine what constitutes anti-social hours for doctors.
Doctors have warned that the changes would put patients’ safety and risk by incentivising unsafe working patterns.
The Government has also admitted that junior doctors who work the very longest hours will face a pay cut. The overall change is planned to be cost-neutral.
In a letter to Dr Porter, Mr Hunt claimed the BMA had not fully considered new proposals from the NHS Employers organisation, including the new system of financial penalties to guarantee safe working hours.
He said that industrial action “helps no-one”, and maintained that good progress had been made in talks with 15 out of 16 issues addressed and only one, cuts to weekend pay, remaining unresolved.
Mr Hunt claims the changes are necessary to improve services at the weekends, which he has dubbed a “7-day NHS”.
Heidi Alexander MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Nobody wants to see industrial action, not least junior doctors. However from day one Jeremy Hunt’s handling of these negotiations has been a complete and utter shambles. There is only one person patients should blame for today’s news and that’s Jeremy Hunt.
“Before this situation escalates any further, the Government needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with proposals that are fair to junior doctors and safe for patients. This deadlock cannot be allowed to go on.”
Labour has previously said that Mr Hunt should be stripped of responsibility for negotiations with the doctors and that mediators should be urgently brought in to prevent a stoppage.
Dr John Fisher of the BMA said that such a strike could be carried out without harming patient safety, while Mr Hunt has said it would put patients at risk.
Academic studies of doctors’ strikes in previous countries have found that they have tended not to increase death rates – largely because elective care is suspended reallocated to deal with emergencies.
Prior to the previous strike threat Sir Robert Francis QC, president of the Patients’ Association, however said doctors should not go on strike, and called for “some form of mediation”.
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