By Felicity Urquhart.
This week’s junior doctor strike has been suspended amid concerns over patient safety.
The British Medical Association (BMA) have called off the strike, planned for 12-16 September, following fears of senior doctors and citizens about the impact the short-notice industrial action would have on the underfunded and understaffed NHS system.
The BMA said:’We have listened to the concerns of working doctors, patient groups and the public.’
‘Thousands of you have been in touch, your level of anger over the Secretary of State’s imposed contract remains high, but at the same time you want to keep your patients safe during industrial action.’
‘The BMA is therefore suspending the industrial action planned for the week of 12 September. The remaining programme of industrial action stays in place.’
The strike was planned as part of the ongoing row over junior doctor contracts. Secretary of Health, Jeremy Hunt has been in negotiations with the BMA since 2015.
Whilst Mr Hunt argues that recommendations set out by an independent body in 2015 are needed to improve the NHS system, the BMA state that the terms are ‘unacceptable’.
Mr Hunt and the Department of Health hope to open a seven-day NHS, though NHS funding has already been cut by 20 per cent this year. The aim to do so by reducing the pay junior doctors receive for working Saturdays and night shifts.
An agreement between the BMA and the government was made in May 2016, yet junior doctors and medical students overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.
They cited a lack of recognition for anti-social working hours, and the long term effects on patient care as a result of the contract terms, as the largest sticking points.
New formal negotiations have been entered into, yet little progress has been made.
The BMA have also planned a series of industrial action in October, November and December, in an attempt to encourage the government to reconsider their terms. Though these strikes are still due to take place, the BMA have put this week’s strike on hold following senior doctors concerns.
The BMA state: ‘Patient safety remains doctors’ primary concern.’
‘For the first time in this dispute NHS England have told us that a service under such pressure cannot cope with the notice period for industrial action given.’
‘Our hospitals are chronically under staffed. Our NHS is desperately underfunded. We have to listen to our colleagues when they tell us that they need more time to keep patients safe.’
The dates for the future strikes are: 5, 6 and 7 October (weekend covered) and then 10 – 11 October, 14 – 18 November and 5 – 9 December.