Junior doctor strike suspended as government reviews contract

Tuesday’s strike by junior doctors has been suspended, after a last-minute breakthrough at talks between the British Medical Association and the Department of Health.

Health news. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150730-111621001
Health news. Photo: Shutterstock SUS-150730-111621001

Following talks with mediator Acas, the parties have agreed to reach a ‘collaborative agreement’ not to proceed with a new contract.

Strike action was set to take place tomorrow (December 1) starting at 8am at hospitals across England.

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Two further dates were also earmarked by the BMA, with full walk outs proposed.

However, speaking on Monday afternoon, secretary of state Jeremy Hunt said a ‘potential agreement’ between the BMA leadership and the government would allow a ‘time-limited period during which negotiations can take place’.

The British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union for doctors said the contract would be ‘unsafe’ for patients and ‘unfair’ for doctors.

The new contract proposes an 11 per cent rise in basic pay for junior doctors. However the number of hours during the week which are classed as ‘unsociable’ and therefore a better paid – are being cut.

The government planned to scrap guaranteed pay increases, linked to time in the job, and replace them with a system where junior doctors are rewarded through progress in their training.

Although junior doctors will no longer be picketing at hospitals, hundreds of patients have been affected by cancelled appointments and surgery - after health bosses put plans in place to reduce the impact of strikes on patients.

98 per cent of junior doctors voted in favour of strike action on a 76 per cent turnout when the result was announced on 18 November.

The BMA now has until 13 January to start industrial action.

A statement released by Acas on behalf of the Department of Health and the BMA said: “All parties are committed to reaching an agreement that improves safety for patients and doctors and therefore NHS Employers have agreed to extend the timeframe for the BMA to commence any industrial action by four weeks to 13 January 2016 at 5pm, to allow negotiations to progress.

“Within that timetable, the BMA agrees to temporarily suspend its proposed strike action and the Department of Health agrees similarly to temporarily suspend implementation of a contract without agreement.

“The parties support the commitment to patients to ensure that the quality of care and patient outcomes (including appropriately adjusted mortality rates) are the same every day of the week.”

Strike action on December 1, was planned at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust and East Sussex Healthcare Trust.

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