Disruption is still expected at hospitals around Nottinghamshire today (tuesday), despite the planned junior doctor’s strike being called off in the eleventh hour.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals, which runs King’s Mill and Mansfield Community Hospital was expecting just 28 of its 200-plus junior doctors to take to picket lines this morning.
But the action was postponed last night (Monday) following four days of talks between Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the British Medical Association (BMA) which represents doctors.
Speaking to Parliament yesterday, Mr Hunt said: “I’m pleased to report [that] discussions led to a potential agreement early this afternoon between the BMA leadership and the Government.
“This agreement would allow a time-limited period during which negotiations can take place and during which the BMA agrees to suspend strike action and the Government agrees not to proceed unilaterally with implementing a new contract.”
But the industrial action has only been stalled and strikes could be called in January if Mr Hunt refuses to back down over planned new contracts, which the BMA has described as ‘unfair for doctors and dangerous for patients’.
At King’s Mill, details of numbers of procedures cancelled or postponed had not yet been released, but hospitals across the region were facing major disruption.
The trust was asking patients who had a procedure planned to come in at the appointed time if they had not been contacted by staff. Patients whose outpatient appointments cancelled have been given new dates to attend, and people whose operations have been cancelled will be contacted with a new date, the trust said.
One junior doctor at King’s Mill who was set to take part in the strike, told the Chad: “Striking was really a last resort as we felt we had no other option and the pressure placed on Jeremy Hunt seems to have worked. We will have to see how the negotiations go now.”
Ministers drew up plans to change the contract of junior doctors in 2012 but talks broke down last year. Government health bosses had planned to impose the new contract next year in England.
The plans include an 11 per cent rise in basic pay for doctors,
However, guaranteed pay increases linked to time in the job are being scrapped and replaced with a system linked to progression through set training stages.
The BMA has argued that people who take time out to have a baby will be unfairly penalised against.
The Government also plans to cut the number of hours during the working week that are classed as unsociable,
Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale and Ashfield’s Gloria De Piero both came out in support of the junior doctors, while Sherwood MP Mark Spencer said they were being duped by the BMA.
Ms De Piero, whose constituency covers King’s Mill told Chad: “If any patient has their operation cancelled, or appointment postponed then let’s be clear there is only one person to blame and that’s the Health Secretary.”
Sir Alan added: “I support the doctors in their struggle - the amount of hours they are working are abysmal and they get very little recompense.
“I have been involved with the NHS for many years and I have never seen them forced into industrial action before.
“They deserve much better treatment than they are getting.”
Meanwhile, Mr Spencer said: “It does appear that a lot of doctors are being misled here by the BMA. Obviously they are intelligent people, so it can only be because they have been misled and misinformed about the facts.”
Junior doctors who spoke to the Chad today (Tuesday) said they were still waiting for full details of the last-minute deal struck on Monday.