NHS insists it is prepared for first full strike

Junior doctors’ walkout stretches workforce planning capabilities, in ‘one of the lowest points’ for the health service

Senior NHS managers and HR leaders across England are at the forefront of one of the most significant industrial relations disputes in a generation, as junior doctors began their first ever full strike this morning.

The British Medical Association (BMA) called the walkout – from 8am to 5pm today and tomorrow – after talks over a new contract broke down.

More than 100,000 outpatient appointments and 12,000 operations have been cancelled this week. The NHS 111 phone diagnosis system has been provided with additional employees to cope with expected demand. Consultants will be expected to step in to provide emergency care, which for the first time has been fully withdrawn.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has chaired a series of contingency planning meetings to coordinate an operational response, while NHS England has worked with every Trust to firm up plans to provide safe care.

“As part of their duties for civil contingency preparedness, Trusts also have major incident plans in place, which are ready to be enacted if required,” said Hunt.

“NHS England has asked GP practices and other primary care providers in some areas to extend their opening hours so patients can continue to get the important, but non-emergency, care they need.”

After more than three years of talks, NHS Employers, the body representing local Trusts across the country, set out plans in February to introduce a new contract from August 2016 for GP trainees and trainees in hospital posts approved for postgraduate medical or dental education.

Key features of this deal include higher basic salary, extra hours and a change in the way weekend work is rewarded. But after talks – particularly around pay for weekend work – broke down, the government signalled its readiness to impose the contract.

BMA Junior Doctors Committee chair Johann Malawana last week wrote to Hunt saying junior doctors would not accept “a contract being forced on them”.

Malawana added today: “These two days of industrial action mark one of the lowest points in the wonderful history of the NHS.

“We deeply regret the disruption caused to patients, but we know experienced staff will be working hard to provide the emergency care they need, and it is for the benefit of the same patients and people who need to use the NHS in future that we take this action.”

Hunt told parliament yesterday that a seven-day NHS would make it one of the safest, most effective healthcare systems in the world.

He added: “I wish to appeal directly to all junior doctors not to withdraw emergency cover, which creates particular risks for accident and emergency, maternity units and intensive care units.

“I understand that some doctors may disagree with the government over our seven-day NHS plans, and particularly the introduction of a new contract. I also understand that doctors work incredibly hard, including at weekends, and that strong feelings exist on the single remaining disagreement of substance, Saturday premium pay.

“But the new contract offers junior doctors who work frequently at weekends more Saturday premium pay than nurses, paramedics, than the assistants who work in their own operating theatres, more than police officers or firefighters and nearly every other worker in the public and private sectors.”

There have been reports that junior doctors are prepared to launch a permanent strike over the issue. Dr Ben White, a BMA member who resigned on live television to focus on launching a legal challenge to the contract, today said: “Forget the lies and propaganda. The imposition of the junior doctors’ contract affects all NHS service users. Staff know that the lack of workforce planning, lack of cost modelling, plus rota and staffing issues, create a perfect storm where patient safety will inevitably be compromised. We must challenge this contract in the High Court. A judicial review would consider all relevant factors and hold the government accountable for decisions it has made. Ultimately, this is about public safety.”

 

Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/04/26/nhs-insists-it-is-prepared-for-first-full-strike.aspx

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