Three new junior doctor strike dates and plans for a judicial review into Government plans to impose a new contract on trainees have been announced.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has unveiled the plans in the wake of Jeremy Hunt’s controversial move to bring in the new deal for juniors in England despite widespread discontent from August 2016.
The doctors’ union claims its judicial review will focus on the fact that the Government appears to have failed to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment prior to its decision.
A trio of 48-hour ‘emergency care only’ walk-outs will also take place in the coming months – on Wednesday March 9 from 8am, Wednesday April 6 from 8am and Tuesday April 26 from 8am.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “In recent weeks I have heard from thousands of junior doctors across the country, and the resounding message is that they cannot and will not accept what the Government is trying to do.
“It now appears that in trying to push through these changes the Government failed to give proper consideration to the impact this contract could have on junior doctors. This is yet another example of the incompetence which the Government has demonstrated throughout its handling of this dispute.
“Imposing this contract will seriously undermine the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain junior doctors in areas of medicine with the most unsocial hours, where there are already staffing shortages.”
Following the Government’s former adviser on patient safety Prof Don Berwick’s appeal for ministers to apologise to juniors over its decision, Dr Malawana added: “The Government must listen to the chorus of concern coming from all quarters and reconsider this disastrous approach.”
The long-running row between the BMA and the Government, which has seen junior doctors stage industrial action twice in recent weeks. surrounds the conditions of a new contract.
It was reported that the last remaining sticking point was Government’s desire to cut the number of ‘unsocial hours’ doctors can receive additional pay for.
Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attracts a premium rate of pay for junior doctors.
But the Government wants the Saturday day shift to be paid at a normal rate in return for a hike in basic pay. The BMA has rejected this and has urged Mr Hunt to accept its proposal to reduce the 11 per cent rise in basic pay offered by ministers and instead pay premium rates on Saturdays.
The new deal set to be imposed on doctors will mean 7am to 5pm on Saturdays will be regarded as a normal working day but doctors working one in four or more Saturdays will receive a pay premium of 30 per cent.
Mr Hunt said the new contract will mean a basic salary increase of 13.5 per cent, claiming three quarters of doctors will see their take-home pay increase, while no doctor working contracted hours would see a pay cut. The numbers of night shifts and long shifts will also be limited.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokeswoman said: “We have been clear throughout discussions with junior doctors that we want to work with them to look at how we bring about a seven-day NHS which we think is in the interests of patients.
“It’s regrettable if they are going to strike again. I’m sure discussions with them will continue.”