12 Jan 2016

Junior doctors’ strike explained

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There was a moment, just before Christmas, where it did look as if the junior doctors contract dispute would be resolved.

With both sides at the ACAS table for the first time, there was real hope they could work their way to some form of compromise.

But it was not to be.  They did not appear to come close to resolving those remaining sticking points over pay, over safeguards to stop juniors being made to work excessive hours and over incremental pay rises.

The Government has said over the past week that they are disappointed especially because they had resolved 15 of 16 points. The British Medical Association said – again a reflection of how far apart they are – that they do not recognise those numbers and that there is more to resolve than one point.

Again, too, they disagree over claims that doctors will receive an 11 per cent pay rise under the contract.

The BMA says those who work the longest hours will be disproportionately affected because of the proposal to change the basic hours from 7am-10pm Monday to Friday and 7am-7pm on Saturdays.

The Government says only 1 per cent will lose out but they have never provided figures to show how they have reached that figure.

So today the juniors go on strike for the first time since 1975. There are expected to be about 100 picket lines at hospitals across England.  About 4,000 operations have been cancelled.

It is fair to say that the NHS is well-rehearsed in coping under these sort of circumstances and major upheavals aren’t expected.

Interestingly, for both sides to consider, is some polling out today in the Health Service Journal.

The Ipsos/Mori poll for the HSJ  found that as long as their strike is confined to planned care 66 per cent of the public support the junior doctors’ action. Sixteen per cent said they opposed action even with emergency care being provided, with the remainder saying they neither supported nor opposed.

But this support dropped to 44 per cent of the public if emergency care was affected which will be the case on February 10.

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