Three strikes have been earmarked to take place in December 2015 over doctors’ contracts with the NHS despite ministers warning that this could cause harm to patients. The strikes come after thousands of doctors recently participated in a series of protests over changes being made to their contracts.
If the strikes go ahead, non-emergency services will be affected. Thousands of routine appointments, tests and operations will have to be rescheduled and the NHS will be forced to prioritise emergency cases. The British Medical Association states that it is “inevitable” that disruption will be caused to patients as a result.
The planned dates for industrial action are:
1. 1 December 2015 – 8:00am – 2 December 8:00am (junior doctors to staff emergency care)
2. 8 December 2015 – 8:00am – 5:00pm (full strike)
3. 16 December 2015 – 8:00am – 5:00pm (full strike)
Statistics from the Department of Health reveal that currently £3.1billion out of the public purse is spent on doctors’ salaries. A further 11% increase in pay is on offer along with a 25% reduction in weekly hours that attract a premium unsociable hours payment. However, out of the 55,000 doctors in England, 37,700 balloted over industrial action.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has submitted that NHS contracts need to be reformed in order to honour the manifesto promise for more seven-day services. He also stated that “We put forward a very fair offer for doctors, which will see pay go up for three-quarters of junior doctors. We wanted to talk about this to them, but in the end they have chosen to strike so we will have to put in contingency plans.”
Independent arbitration has been called for in order to resolve the dispute as neither body is willing to compromise.
The previous strike involving doctors took place in summer 2012 over pensions. However, emergency and urgent care departments were adequately staffed and disruption to services was minimised.
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