Fears over patient safety were raised yesterday after junior doctors announced five days of strike action. Michael Holmes looks at what it really means?
When are junior doctors planning to walk out?
Junior doctors will stage additional full walkouts between 8am and 5pm on October 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11, November 14 to 18 and December 5 to 9.
The extra strike dates come on top of the five days of action announced on Wednesday, which will take place from September 12 to 16.
Junior doctors are at loggerheads with the government over a new contract, and have already held six strikes. In May, both sides agreed to a new deal, but BMA members voted to reject it in July. That’s when the government said it would instead impose the contract, sparking fresh anger. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says the new contract would create a truly seven-day NHS, though junior doctors say they are already struggling to deliver the present-day service, and say the funding is not there to do it.
How will patients be affected?
Mr Hunt said 100,000 operations across the country might have to be cancelled and one million appointments postponed.
Although it’s too early to say how local hospitals will be affected, some dozens of operations and hundreds of appointments were cancelled because of April’s 48-hour strike.
More senior doctors could also be drafted in to help cover striking colleagues.
What are people saying?
The BMA said junior doctors have been left with ‘no choice’ but to start fresh strike action after failed attempts to resolve the remaining issues with the contract.
But the Department of Health accused the BMA of ‘playing politics in a way that will be immensely damaging for vulnerable patients’.
Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said Jeremy Hunt should ‘scrap’ the contract and re-enter talks with junior doctors, while Mr Hunt said: “This is devastating news for patients.”
Could this be avoided?
Mr Hunt said he was open to dialogue, but insisted the best way forward was implementation of the contract. The BMA said it will call off the strikes if the Government agrees to stop the imposition.
Dr Ellen McCourt, who chairs the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said: “We have a simple ask of the Government: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.
“This is not a situation junior doctors wanted to find themselves in.
“We want to resolve this dispute through talks, but in forcing through a contract that junior doctors have rejected and which they don’t believe is good for their patients or themselves, the government has left them with no other choice.”