Junior doctors throughout the United Kingdom plan to go on strike – referred to as industrial action in the UK – for three days in December if the country’s National Health Service (NHS) goes forward with imposing a new contract upon the doctors.
In describing the proposed contract, the chair of the junior doctors committee, Dr. Johann Malawana stated that, “The proposals on pay, not for the first time, appear to be misleading. The increase in basic pay would be offset by changes to pay for unsocial hours, devaluing the vital work junior doctors do at evenings and weekends. While in the short term existing junior doctors may have their pay protected, protections will only exist for a limited time.”
Malawana emphasized that the British Medical Association (BMA) would resume negotiations with the NHS over their future contract only if the health secretary first agreed to “remove the threat of imposition and provide us with concrete assurances on a safe and fair contract.” Malawana added that the latest offer to the junior doctors “falls short on both counts as, once again, the headlines do not match up to the reality.”
The NHS presently has 45,000 trainee doctors in England. If the doctors strike, they will provide only emergency care for a 24-hour period beginning at 8:00 a.m. on December 1st. This would provide hospitals with extremely reduced coverage.
The junior doctors then intend to follow through with two full blown work stoppages where they will refuse to work at all on December 8th and December 16th.
These work stoppages will happen if the members of the BMA vote to go forward with the plan. The ballot closes November 18th at 5:00 p.m. and the BMA will release the results the following day.
The BMA’s proposed industrial action was initiated because it believes the new contract is unfair for doctors and unsafe for patients.
Dr. Mark Porter, chair of the BMA’s ruling council, said that it does not want to disrupt the country’s healthcare system but that, “Our dispute is with the government and our ballot for industrial action is a last resort in the face of their continued threat to impose a new contract.”
Porter further added that, “Industrial action is the last resort for a reason: it comes only when every other avenue has been exhausted. The BMA has been explicit in what needs to change in junior doctor contract proposals. The government’s refusal to work with us through genuine negotiations, and its continued threat to impose an unsafe and unfair contract leaves us with no alternative.”