23 Mar 2016 – Update: The BMA has confirmed it will escalate action on 26 – 28 April by operating all out strikes, including junior doctors working in emergency care.
On Friday, the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) announced an “escalation” of protests as the junior doctors’ strike action looks set to continue. Junior doctors have been striking to protest a new contract proposed by Jeremy Hunt which would scrap bonus payments for unfavourable hours including weekend shifts. According to the BMA’s website all junior doctors not involved in emergency care will walk out again between 6-8 and 26-28 of April, assuming a deal is not reached.
Exactly what the escalation of industrial action by BMA will entail is yet to be confirmed. With two further 48 hour strikes planned next month, it seems likely that any increased action will take place around the start of May if an agreement can still not be agreed with the government. Options for further action include a full walkout – including emergency care staff – or strikes for longer than 48 hours at a time.
Moreover, the Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander, has warned the the new contract – and continuing deadlock – will only worsen the GPS recruitment crisis. Speaking to GPOnline.com, she said: “‘This has got to be about what Jeremy Hunt will do now. He has got to get back to that negotiating table because a prolonged period of industrial action is no good for anyone.”
This further tension between the BMA and Health Secretary comes off the back of George Osborne’s latest budget, which has been shown to include £1.1 billion of unannounced cuts to the NHS repair budget. The repair budget – used to replace out of date equipment – was supposed to be £4.8bn, but instead Osborne only assigned it £3.7 billion.
Image credit (s): Jeremy Hunt addresses a conference – flickr.com/56675543@N08; Junionr doctors march – flickr.com/garryknight.