Junior doctors at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary will go on strike for five full days this month in protest against a new government contract.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed that junior doctors in England will take further industrial action and stage a full withdrawal of labour for five days, between 8am and 5pm from Monday September 12 – Friday September 16 inclusive, followed by further dates to be confirmed.
The BMA says this follows a vote by junior doctors in July to reject the government’s proposed contract, and repeated attempts over the past two months to work constructively with the government to address the outstanding areas of concern.
The strikes come at a time when the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, which runs the RLI, is asking people not to attend its A&E department unless in an absolute emergency.
The BMA says the government is refusing to acknowledge junior doctors’ concerns and is continuing with plans to impose the contract in October.
The government says that a new contract is needed to deliver more seven-day services.
Key concerns raised by junior doctors include the impact that the contract will have on those working less than full-time, a majority of whom are women, and the impact it will have on junior doctors working the most weekends, typically in specialties where there is already a shortage of doctors.
A recently leaked document shows that the NHS does not have a plan as to how it will staff or fund further seven-day services.
Concerns have been raised about staff shortages across the NHS and hospitals in Chorley, Grantham and Stafford have been forced to close A&E departments or limit access because they don’t have enough staff to deliver safe care.
Dr. Ellen McCourt, BMA junior doctors’ committee chair, said: “Junior doctors still have serious concerns with the contract, particularly that it will fuel the current workforce crisis, and that it fails to treat all doctors fairly.
“Since July, the BMA has made repeated attempts to work with the government to address the concerns that junior doctors have raised about the contract. Genuine efforts to resolve the dispute through talks have been met with an unwillingness to engage and, at times, deafening silence from the Secretary of State, leaving junior doctors with no choice but to take further action. This is despite a pledge from Jeremy Hunt that his door is always open.
“The government has consistently said this is about creating a seven-day NHS, when junior doctors already work weekends and it’s been shown that the government has no answer to how it will staff and fund extra weekend care.
“With just weeks before the first group of doctors is moved onto the imposed contract, time is running out. This contract will be in place for many years, it will have a direct impact on patient care and whether we can attract and keep enough doctors in the NHS. It is too important to be rushed to meet a political deadline.
“We have a simple ask of the government: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.
“This is not a situation junior doctors wanted to find themselves in. We want to resolve this dispute through talks, but in forcing through a contract that junior doctors have rejected and which they don’t believe is good for their patients or themselves, the government has left them with no other choice.”
The BMA says it believes that progress was made during talks in May, and is calling for the government to lift the imposition and restart meaningful talks to agree a contract that is adequately funded, fit for purpose, delivers for patients and has the confidence of the profession.
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