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Full walkout strike of junior doctors scheduled

Two-day all-out strike on April 26 and 27

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A full two-day strike by doctors with no emergency cover has been scheduled for next month by the BMA in the escalating dispute between its junior doctor members and the government.

The BMA announced today that its planned industrial action for 26 and 27 April will change from its original 48-hour emergency care only status to a full withdrawal of labour by junior doctors. Other doctors and staff will continue to provide care during this time.

The Department of Health has condemned the decision, calling it “desperate and irresponsible”.

This will be the first time that doctors have ever gone on full strike in the UK, leaving A&E departments without cover although it is anticipated that consultants will leave their regular work during the action to help in A&E departments.

The union said the escalation of the dispute had become imperative because of the government’s refusal to end the dispute through talks and to change its position since deciding to impose a new contract on junior doctors from August this year.

A 48-hour emergency care only action due to start 6 April will go ahead as planned.

In a BMA ballot of junior doctors carried out last November, 98% of those who voted supported taking industrial action, including a full withdrawal of labour.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “No junior doctor wants to take this action but the government has left us with no choice. In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors’ outstanding concerns, the government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country.

“The government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected.

“We want to end this dispute through talks but the government is making this impossible, it is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers. Faced with this reality what else can junior doctors do?”

The BMA said it deeply regretted the disruption to patients its action would cause, but it had been forced into this position by the government.

“Junior doctors are committed to ensuring the best possible care for their patients and already work seven days a week, around the clock under the existing contract,” said Dr Malawana.

“In focusing on junior doctors, the government is seeking, yet again, to gloss over the fact that the biggest barrier to a seven-day NHS is not doctors’ contracts, but a chronic lack of investment and a shortage of staff.

“For the sake of patients, doctors and the future of the NHS the government must put politics to one side, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “This escalation of industrial action is both desperate and irresponsible - and will inevitably put patients in harm's way.

“If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.”

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