Junior doctors strikes: BMA announces three 48-hour walkouts over contract

The British Medical Association has also launched a legal challenge over Jeremy Hunt's policy

Junior doctors will go on strike for three further 48-hour periods in an attempt to stop a new contract, the British Medical Association has announced.

The BMA, doctors' professional association, has also said it will mount a legal challenge to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's policy in the courts.

The three strikes are scheduled to begin on Wednesday 9 March, Wednesday 6 April, and Tuesday 26 April. They all begin at 8 am on those days.

The latest actions are in response to the decision by Mr Hunt to unilaterally impose the new contracts without the consent or agreement of junior doctors.

The Government says the new contract will improve patient care at the weekends but junior doctors say it will incentivise unsafe staffing rosters and put patient care at risk

The legal challenge over the contract is based on the BMA's assertion that the Government has not properly performed an equalities impact assessment before deciding to impose the new contract.

Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA's junior doctor committee chair, said junior doctors would not accept the new contract and called for the Government to re-enter industrial talks, which have been suspended.

“Imposing this contract will seriously undermine the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain junior doctors in areas of medicine with the most unsocial hours, where there are already staffing shortages. This will have a significant impact on areas such as emergency medicine, maternity care and paediatrics, to name but a few," he said.

“We have already seen NHS chief executives refusing to support an imposition, and patient representatives have said they are appalled by this move. Added to this, the Government’s former adviser on patient safety, Don Berwick, has said it should apologise to junior doctors over the contract dispute. The Government must listen to the chorus of concern coming from all quarters and reconsider this disastrous approach.

“The fact is, junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the Government wants more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and support staff, and the extra investment necessary to deliver them. Rather than address these issues head on, the Government wants to introduce a contract that is unfair and in which junior doctors have no confidence.

“The Government can avert this action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have, rather than simply ignoring them. If it pushes ahead with plans to impose a contract that junior doctors have resoundingly rejected we will be left with no option but to take this action. The Government must put patients before politics, get back around the table and find a negotiated solution to this dispute.”

The British Medical Association had previously said it would look at all options available to it in order to prevent the contract from being implemented.

Junior doctors have already staged two days of strike action as part of negotiations; those who voted were 98 per cent in favour of taking action.

As with previous strikes, emergency care will continue to be offered during stoppages.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the newly imposed contract would actually benefit doctors.

“Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations – over a contract that was 90 per cent agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe," they said.

The new contract will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise, and will bring down the maximum number of hours doctors can work.

“We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings.”

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