The BMA (British Medical Association) called off the strike that was supposed to take place next week due to several concerns expressed by patients and hospital managers regarding patients’ care. Still, the association made it clear that junior doctors won’t step back unless the government changes the agreement.
If we step back in time, we can understand where this debate between junior doctors and the government, embodied in this case by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, comes from. Everything started in 2012, when the government announced the introduction of a new contract for doctors, in which terms and conditions agreed in the 1990s were being modified. Formal talks went on for many years, until the decision was taken this year, in February: the government announced that new contracts were going to be introduced starting this summer; some of the changes include more hours of work and, apparently, a discrimination against women. Strikes have been taking places since the beginning of the year: 58% of junior doctors do not accept this contract and planned more strikes for the end of the year.
Next week’s strike was called off by the BMA because there were many complaints made by medical leaders and hospital managers regarding the short notice with which said strike was announced. In the words of Dr Ellen McCourt, junior doctors’ leader: “While the BMA provided more than the required notice, we have taken this decision to ensure the NHS has the necessary time to prepare and to put in place contingency plans to protect patient safety“, she said. “Future action is still avoidable. The BMA has repeatedly said it will call off further action if the government puts a halt to plans to force junior doctors to work under a contract they have rejected because they don’t believe it is good for the future of patient care or the profession.”
The strike which had been arranged for next week was going to be the first of five, which will go on until the end of the year: the next ones will happen from Wednesday October 5th to Tuesday October 11th, from Monday November 14th to Friday November 18th and from Monday December 5th to Friday December 9th.