The BMA today decided to suspend a second period of industrial action by junior doctors planned for next week.
Tens of thousands of trainees in England were due to provide emergency care-only cover for 48 hours, beginning next Tuesday.
However, the association decided to halt the action while conciliation talks between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health continue.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana (pictured) said while differences still existed between the two sides in the contracts dispute, the association’s focus was on building on the initial progress made.
‘The BMA’s aim has always been to deliver a safe, fair junior doctor contract through negotiated agreement. Following junior doctors’ clear message to the Government during last week’s action, our focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks,’ he said.
Dr Malawana said the BMA had taken the decision to suspend the industrial action planned for 26 – 28 January which would give NHS trusts as ‘much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients’.
He added: ‘It is important to be clear, however, that differences still exist between the BMA and the Government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctor’s working lives and the recognition of unsocial hours. Significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted.’
The decision follows last week’s industrial action by trainees in England in which 150 picket lines and ‘meet the doctor’ events were held across the country.
The 24-hour action saw trainees provide emergency care-only cover.
Dr Malawana also today wrote to all junior doctors in England informing them of the decision to suspend next week’s action.
In his email, he encourages juniors who have already signed up to attend ‘meet the doctor’ events next week to continue with their plans in talking to the public about the importance of a safe and fair contract.
‘This fight — our fight — has always been to get a contract that is fair for doctors, safe for patients and supports the sustainable future of the NHS. I, and the rest of the JDC, rely on your ongoing support while we strive to do just that,’ he writes.
The junior doctor contract dispute has seen BMA membership figures reach a record high of more than 170,000.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The strike that took place last week was unnecessary while talks are ongoing, so it’s extremely welcome news that the BMA has suspended next week’s action, though as it stands emergency care will still be withdrawn in February.
'In the end, the Government and junior doctors want to do the same thing by improving patient care at weekends — and we look forward to further constructive discussions.’
NHS Confederation Chief executive Rob Webster said: ‘Everyone in the NHS will welcome the news that the planned action by junior doctors has been suspended after progress in talks between the BMA and NHS Employers.
'I would like to thank the BMA leadership, particularly for the early notification and making sure there is sufficient time for our members to plan services for patients in the coming weeks.
'These early positive developments bring hope that a deal can be reached that secures a positive future for the NHS and doctors that make up such a significant part of our workforce.’
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