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Thousands of doctors picket in industrial action

Around 61% of junior doctors stayed away from work

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Almost two thirds of junior doctors due to work yesterday did not attend as part of the BMA’s first day of industrial action in England to protest over planned changes to doctors’ working contracts.

NHS England estimated that 39% of junior doctors (out of a possible 26,000) reported for duty on their day shift while the BMA said there had been solid support for the 24-hour action with thousands attending pickets.

The BMA estimated there had been more than 150 pickets and ‘meet the doctor’ events across England.

Doctors are protesting over planned changes to working contracts, which the BMA says fail to address junior doctors’ concerns about the need for contractual safeguards on safe working and proper recognition for those working unsocial hours.

Despite yesterday’s event, which is due to be followed with a second 48-hour period of industrial action on 26 January, it is hoped that the BMA, NHS Employers and the government will resume talks being hosted at conciliation service Acas this week.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Dr Johann Malawana said yesterday: “With junior doctors attending more than 150 pickets and ‘meet the doctor’ events up and down England, the action sends a clear message to Jeremy Hunt [health secretary] and David Cameron [prime minister].

“Junior doctors in their thousands have made it quite clear what they think of the government’s plans to impose contracts in which junior doctors have no confidence.

“Today’s action – one that the BMA has long sought to avoid – is a result of a fundamental breakdown in trust with junior doctors, for which the government is directly responsible.

“We deeply regret the level of disruption caused, but this is a fight for the long-term safety of patients and junior doctors’ working lives.”

NHS England said that combining junior doctors, other doctors and consultants, the data showed 71% of the total trust medical workforce was in work during the day of action.

NHS trusts had reported that 1,279 in-patient and 2,175 day case elective procedures due to take place had been postponed as a result of industrial action.

Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said: “As expected, unfortunately, this action has caused disruption to patient care and we apologise to all patients affected.  It’s a tough day but the NHS is pulling out all the stops, with senior doctors and nurses often stepping in to provide cover.

“We are actively monitoring the situation across the country and the impact of the action is broadly in line with what we were expecting. NHS trusts are now working hard to reschedule cancelled tests, appointments and operations as soon as is possible.

“We will continue to work closely with hospitals and other NHS providers across the country to ensure that contingency plans are in place and that they can safely provide the urgent and emergency services needed.”

Picture: London, 17 October 2015: Junior doctors marching in London streets to campaign against NHS contract changes. Credit: William Perugini / Shutterstock.com

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