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Get back round negotiating table, junior doctors urge government

Fourth walk-out, lasting 48 hours, begins today, with another planned on 26 April

Caroline White

Wednesday, 06 April 2016

The BMA has urged the government to get back round the negotiating table as junior doctors walk out for the fourth time today in the long running dispute with the government over the terms and conditions of their new contract.

The industrial action, which began at 8am this morning, will last for 48 hours. Emergency services will be provided, but 5,000 operations scheduled for this period have been cancelled.

"We deeply regret any disruption this action will cause to patients, but it is because we believe this contract would be bad for the delivery of patient care in the long term that we are taking this action,” said Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctor Committee.

“By imposing a contract that junior doctors have no confidence in and refusing to re-enter talks with the BMA, the government has left us with no choice,” he added.

“We want a contract that is fair for all junior doctors – not one of which the government has admitted will disadvantage women - and ensures that they feel valued and motivated so that the NHS can retain the GPs and hospital doctors of the future,” he insisted.

“By pursuing its current course, the government risks alienating a generation of doctors if it continues to ignore junior doctors’ concerns, at a time when their morale is already at rock-bottom, doctors may vote with their feet which will clearly affect the long-term future of the NHS and the care it provides,” he said.

Responsibility for industrial action lay entirely with the government he said. “They must start listening and resume negotiations on a properly funded junior doctor’s contract to protect the future of patient care and the NHS.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said that the body had watched the ongoing tousle between the government and the doctors’ union with “growing concern,” and didn’t believe that imposing the contract would be “at all helpful” in resolving the dispute.

“Such a highly trained and valuable part of the NHS should not be disregarded so lightly. At a time when financing the NHS is already at breaking point, we should not further risk losing more doctors whose training is funded by the public purse,” she said.

As such, the Patients Association was glad to see that the contract imposition was being challenged, she added.

Last month, the BMA launched a judicial review, challenging the lawfulness of the health secretary’s decision to impose the new contract.

A further 48-hour strike, when trainee doctors will provide no emergency cover, is set to go ahead on 26 April unless further talks are held.

The government has branded this escalation of the dispute as “both desperate and irresponsible,” claiming that it “will inevitably put patients in harm’s way.”

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