Tom Goodenough Tom Goodenough

The BMA sees (some) sense over junior doctor strikes

Junior doctors have scrapped plans to strike next week. In a dispute which looks increasingly messy and interminable, this is a small token of welcome news. But whilst the BMA has made the right decision in this instance, they are still sticking with their threat to stage three five-day walkouts in October, November and December. What’s more, in justifying why they called off the strike which was due to start on September 12, they’re trying to have their cake and eat it.

After all, when industrial action was announced last week, patient safety – that all important concept which the BMA had trumpeted in the earlier stages of this row – seemed to have been forgotten. Hospital managers were given just 11 days to work out what to do. Thousands of operations would have to be cancelled and patients – some of whom would have waited months for their appointments – were due to be turned away in droves. The tone of the strike was different, not only for the lack of clear outcome the BMA was hoping for (after all, it has recommended the new contract to its members), but for the lack of notice – a new element of apparent nastiness.

Yet now the BMA – who, don’t forget, announced the strike in the first place – appears to be trying to take credit for its noble act in calling the September strike off. In a statement, the junior doctors chair for the BMA Ellen McCourt said:

Patient safety remains doctors’ primary concern. For the first time in this dispute NHS England have told us that a service under such pressure cannot cope with the notice period for industrial action given.

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