Junior doctors holding a 48-hour strike are calling for the government to ‘end the dispute through talks’.
Hospital trusts in Sussex are set to reschedule planned operations as the industrial action takes place today (April 6).
Doctors are striking for the fourth time over the government’s imposition of an ‘unfair’ contract, which they believe will be unsafe for patients.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “We deeply regret any disruption this action will cause to patients, but it is because we believe this contract would be bad for the delivery of patient care in the long term that we are taking this action.
“By imposing a contract that junior doctors have no confidence in and refusing to re-enter talks with the BMA, the government has left us with no choice.
“We want a contract that is fair for all junior doctors – not one of which the government has admitted will disadvantage women - and ensures that they feel valued and motivated so that the NHS can retain the GPs and hospital doctors of the future.
“By pursuing its current course, the government risks alienating a generation of doctors. If it continues to ignore junior doctors’ concerns, at a time when their morale is already at rock-bottom, doctors may vote with their feet which will clearly affect the long-term future of the NHS and the care it provides.
“Responsibility for industrial action now lies entirely with the government.
“They must start listening and resume negotiations on a properly funded junior doctor’s contract to protect the future of patient care and the NHS.”
Negotiations between the BMA and NHS Employers for new consultants and junior doctors’ contracts began in October 2013.
Doctors are arguing the changes – proposed to improve seven-day NHS services — will be unsafe as the number of hours during the week which are classed as ‘unsociable’ and therefore better paid – are being cut.
The government also proposes to scrap guaranteed pay increases, linked to time in the job, and replace them with a system where junior doctors progress through different stages in training.
NHS England has expressed regret for the disruption patients will face and the fact that thousands of planned procedures will have to be rearranged, leaving people having to wait longer for treatment.
Dr Anne Rainsberry, National Incident Director for NHS England, said: “We’ve already seen that a 48-hour strike puts considerably more pressure on the NHS and it’s deeply regrettable that 1000s of patients are still facing disruption because of this recurring action.
“As always, the safety and care of patients is our number one priority and everything possible is being done to make sure patients will still be able to access urgent and emergency services.
“Following closely on from the four day Easter break this will be a difficult period especially over the course of the second day. Consequently we have redoubled our planning efforts and will be closely monitoring events to make sure we can respond to any rising pressures.”
Urgent and emergency care services will be available as normal but hospitals are expected to be under additional pressure.
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