The British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed that the 48 hour strike by junior doctors planned for next week has been suspended.
Talks between the Department of Health and the BMA are ongoing at conciliation service ACAS. A Department of Health spokesman said the cancellation of the strike was ‘extremely welcome news’ and that the government looked forward to ‘further constructive discussions’ on the issue.
BMA Junior Doctor Committee chair, Dr Johann Malawana, told ITV News:
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 26-28 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.
Thousands of junior doctors walked out last week over planned changes to their pay and contracts, which would lead to a rise in basic pay while cutting the amount paid for working at unsociable hours including weekends and late at night. Protests were held outside Southampton General Hospital and on Bargate in the city centre. Among the protesters were students from Southampton Medical School including Medical Society president Iona Maxwell, who told Wessex Scene:
No doctor wants to strike but the hope is that short term inconvenience to patients will result in long term improvements to patient safety and to doctors’ ability to care for their patients in the way they want to…
Hunt’s insistence on a seven day NHS is impossible until he invests the funds needed to staff such a thing – his current idea is to spread the existing staff even more thinly which will put our patients in danger – we can barely keep up a five day NHS as it is.
BMA representative at Southampton Medical School, Nadine Abbas, added:
We as medical students fully support our junior doctor colleagues. We are worried about the massive implications of the proposed contracts as it will not only affect us but we will have to endure it the longest. Final year students will be under these contracts in a matter of months.
With five years at medical school, we have enough to worry about with regards to studying and becoming a competent doctor. The contracts are unfair and unsafe. With longer and potentially unsafe working hours, patient safety will be compromised. Tired doctors make mistakes. We study medicine to save lives, not to put them in danger.
There are currently no plans to suspend the 24 hour strike planned for Thursday 25th February, which will include junior doctors working in emergency care departments.
You can watch SUSUtv’s coverage of last week’s static protest in the city centre below.
Wessex Scene will update this story as more information becomes available.