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Doctors in England Strike For the Fourth Time

For the fourth time in as many months, junior doctors in England have begun a 48-hour strike as part of an ongoing protest over new contracts.

For the fourth time in as many months, junior doctors in England have begun a 48-hour strike as part of their ongoing protest over new contracts that will be automatically imposed on them by the government in August.

More than 5,100 non-urgent surgical-procedures and appointments have be cancelled as a result of the latest walkout that started at 8:00 a.m. local time. A total of 25,000 appointments and procedures were cancelled as a result of the previous three walkouts in February and March.

Junior doctors will still continue to provide life-or-death care, such as emergency surgery and maternity care.

Dr Anne Rainsberry, National Health Service England’s national incident director, said: “We’ve already seen that a 48-hour strike puts considerably more pressure on the NHS and it’s deeply regrettable that thousands of patients are still facing disruption because of this recurring action.

“Following closely on from the four-day Easter break, this will be a difficult period, especially over the course of the second day. Consequently we have redoubled our planning efforts and will be closely monitoring events to make sure we can respond to any rising pressures.”

But England’s doctors’ union The British Medical Association said if no progress on the new contracts is made with the government, a further 48-hour strike will take place on April 26-27. During that potential action, junior doctors say they will stage a “full” walkout and will not provide any emergency life-or-death care – a first since the National Health Service was established on July 5, 1948 

“We deeply regret any disruption this action will cause to patients, but it is because we believe this contract would be bad for the delivery of patient care in the long term that we are taking this action,” Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee chair said.

“By pursuing its current course, the government risks alienating a generation of doctors. If it continues to ignore junior doctors’ concerns at a time when their morale is already at rock bottom, doctors may vote with their feet, which will clearly affect the long-term future of the National Health Service and the care it provides,” he added.

How did talks between the BMA and government stall

Talks at conciliation service Acas broke down in January

A final take-it-or-leave it offer was made by the government in February but was rejected by the BMA

Health minister Jeremy Hunt announced the contract would be imposed in August

BMA launches judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the health secretary’s decision to impose newly published junior doctor contract

Hospitals are expected to issue junior doctors with new contacts in May

The government is refusing to reopen talks, arguing it made compromises earlier in the year

What the new contract includes

  • An increase in basic pay of 13.5%
  • Redefining the definition of ‘plain time’ to include Saturday from 7am to 5pm
  • Paying a premium of 30% for Saturday ‘plain time’ working, if the doctor works one in four weekends
  • Reduce the definition of ‘safe hours’ from 91 to 72 hours a week
  • Doctors will not work more than four consecutive nights – down from seven currently
  • The maximum number of consecutive ‘long days’ will be reduced from seven to five
  • A new ‘Guardian’ role will be introduced, with the authority to impose fines for breaches to agreed working hours, which will be invested in educational resources and facilities for trainees.

The new contact – At a glance
The new contact- Full contract

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