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BMA announces industrial action after Government refuses to address junior doctors concerns

The BMA has today confirmed that junior doctors in England will take further industrial action, from next month (September).

Junior doctors will stage a full withdrawal of labour for five days, between the hours of 8am and 5pm from Monday 12 September – Friday 16 September inclusive, followed by further dates to be confirmed.

This follows a vote by junior doctors in July to reject the proposed contract, and repeated attempts by the BMA over the past two months to work constructively with the government to address the outstanding areas of concern. Despite this, the government is refusing to acknowledge junior doctors' concerns and is continuing with plans to impose the contract in October.  

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.

The government has said that a new contract is needed to deliver more seven-day services when the department of health’s own documents show that the NHS does not have a plan as to how it will staff or fund further seven-day services. 1, 2

This comes at a time when 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.

The BMA 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. 

Commenting, Dr. Ellen McCourt3, 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.”


Notes to editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. We are an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care. 

  1. A leaked Government risk-register of seven-day services showed that the NHS does not have enough staff or funding to deliver a seven-day NHS. More information is available here and the details of the risk register are available here.
  2. leaked report from earlier this year found that more than 11,000 new staff are needed at weekends at hospitals in England if they are to function identically to a weekday, including 3,000 nurses and 4,000 doctors.
  3. Dr Ellen McCourt became chair of the BMA junior doctor committee chair on 6 July.
  4. In July, 58 per cent of junior doctors voted to reject the new contract. There were asked:  ‘Do you accept the Terms and Conditions of Service for NHS Doctors and Dentists in Training 2016?' Total number of people eligible to vote: 54,374, Total number of eligible votes cast: 36,953 (68% turnout), Yes votes: 15,494 (42%) , No votes: 21,459 (58%)