Saturday, January 16News For London

Junior doctors’ strike begins: 48 hour walk out

Junior doctors strike for the third time today, following complete breakdown in contract negotiations that began two years ago

Picture: Keiran Dudden
Picture: Keiran Dudden

The walkout which began 8.00, March 9 will see junior doctors across England retract all non-emergency services for 48 hours, the longest strike so far. This strike is the first since February, when the government said they would impose the contact without further negotiation.

The strike has resulted in over 5,000 procedures and routine operations across England being cancelled.

The government claims the contract change is necessary as part of their manifesto pledge to create a ‘seven day NHS’. However, many have highlighted that with existing shortages staff will be unable to cover more shifts, without risking patient safely:

In the last round of negotiations, held with the help of conciliation service Acas, many points of contention were settled. However the BMA, the union that represents UK doctors, refused to accept that Saturday will be paid at the same rate as a normal working day.

The government made a final “take it or leave it” offer on February 10, the night of the last strike. Junior doctors were offered a 13.5 per cent basic pay rise, to compensate for cuts to supplementary pay for unsocial hours.  The government also promised to protect the pay of those who work the most unsocial hours who would be likely to receive a pay cut. This pay protection was not extended to cover future doctors.

This video shows Oxford medical student, Eirion Slade, express his disdain in a protest parody of Jessie J’s, Pricetag:

Following the BMAs refusal a new contract proposal has been drawn up. As well as Saturday pay other concerns include cuts to the GP trainee supplement which ensures family doctors do not earn less than their hospital colleagues. Without supplementation, it is believed GPs will be paid on average 31 per cent less than hospital trainees. Recruitment is a growing concern for general practice, 31 per cent of practices in London need at least one more full time GP.

BMA flag flies at Lewsiham Hospital
BMA flag flies at Lewsiham Hospital

Other concerns include pay protection for those who work part time, particularly parents and care givers, as they may fail to meet the criteria for any Saturday supplement.

The BMA is refusing to enter into any more negotiations until the government promises not to impose the contract, in the case of an agreement not being reached. They argue because the NHS is junior doctors’ sole employer, they have a monopoly, making junior doctors’ bargaining position very weak.

The Government has said they want to introduce a new contract in time for it to be used with the August 2016 intake in England.

Over 19,000 treatments have already been cancelled due to recent strike action; this number is set to grow, with two more 48 hour strikes planned for April 6 and April 26.