BMA suspends junior doctor strike citing ‘progress’

© Neil Hall
A 48-hour strike of junior doctors has been suspended by the British Medical Association due to progress in talks with the government.

The BMA said this does not mean a deal has been struck, but that the focus is on negotiations.

Last week junior doctors took 24-hours industrial action the first time since 1975 in opposition to new contracts drawn up by Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Junior doctors say the new job terms will result in pay cuts and unsafe working conditions.

A planned two-day strike scheduled to begin at 8am on Tuesday, January 26, has been called off by the BMA as talks with the government continue.

BMA Junior Doctor Committee Chair Dr. Johann Malawana said “concrete progress” will need to made in negotiations in order to avoid a future action planned for February 10.

The BMA's aim has always been to deliver a safe, fair junior doctor contract through negotiated agreement. Following junior doctors' clear message to the government during last week's action, our focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks,” he said.

"On this basis, the BMA has today taken the decision to suspend the industrial action planned for 26 to 28 January, thereby giving trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients.

"It is important to be clear, however, that differences still exist between the BMA and the government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctor's working lives, and the recognition of unsocial hours. Significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted."

Junior doctors accused the government of not listening to their concerns when they took strike action on January 12.

Kitty Mohan, 36, London, BMA representative striking outside St. Thomas' Hospital in London told RT that the current proposals are "not good enough to keep patients safe."

We’re so disappointed to be striking today. We’re so disappointed that the government hasn’t listened to our concerns. We know that it’s upsetting for our patients and it upsets us.”

The doctors are concerned about new job contracts which they claim will mean working longer hours.

The contracts that sparked the dispute were offered in November and include an 11 percent basic pay rise. However, to offset the higher pay rise, the contracts slash the number of hours each weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for working antisocial hours.

Junior doctors say this would result in a net pay loss and longer, unsafe shifts.