The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that junior doctors will hold a new round of monthly industrial action for the remainder of 2016.
Junior medics will go on strike in a ‘full withdrawal of labour’ between 8am and 5pm from September 12th-16th followed by further walkouts of a similar nature on October 5th and 11th, November 14th and 18th, and December 5th and 9th.
Thousands of junior doctors in Southampton and across the UK walked out earlier this year over the government’s plans to change doctor’s working patterns and provide a 7 day NHS service, which would restrict the payments given to junior medics for working overtime but would increase the basic rate of pay and limit working hours.
Talks between the BMA and government representatives in May did reach a deal, which was later rejected in a ballot of BMA members.
Now, the BMA said that it had been left with ‘no choice’ but to call further strikes after negotiations with the government on the remaining issues surrounding new contracts for junior doctors broke down.
The union added that in addition to strong opposition towards the possibility of having new contracts ‘forced’ upon them, members felt the proposed new contract did not do enough to benefit those who work the most weekends or part-time employees.
The move has drawn widespread condemnation from politicians, healthcare groups and senior medical professionals.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the announcement was ‘devastating news’ and would cause misery for many patients.
He acknowledged the ‘difference of opinion’ between the BMA and the Department of Health over the implementation of a seven day NHS but said he was ‘perplexed’ as he had believed that negotiations had been progressing well.
Speaking to ITV News, The Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson, described the strike announcement as a serious escalation of the dispute and a matter of ‘great concern’ for all involved due to the lack of time which the NHS has been given to make contingency plans.
A poll released for Sky News shows that public support for this fresh set of strikes is much lower than the previous walkout, with only 57% of respondents in favour compared to over 70% supporting the first round of walkouts in February.
NHS Providers, which represents NHS management across the country, estimates that the upcoming strike could cause the cancellation of the equivalent of 500,000 operations and over 4 million outpatient appointments. Chief Executive Chris Hopson condemned the potential scale of disruption as ‘completely unprecedented’.
The Department of Health is urging patients to only use A&E services during the strike if absolutely essential. Emergency care facilities are expected to remain open, but it is likely that resources will be stretched.
You can watch SUSUtv’s coverage of the previous junior doctor’s strike below, including interviews with Southampton MedSoc and BMA representatives.