With only twelve days’ notice, UK hospitals are finding themselves in an unenviable position, having to prepare themselves for what has been described by Jeremy Hunt as “the most devastating doctors’ strike in NHS history”.
This is the first time that junior doctors will be striking for five consecutive days, from 12th-16th September, 08:00-17:00. As a result of this strike, 100,000 operations have been cancelled, and over a million hospital appointments have been postponed, raising serious concerns about the quality of patient welfare. It has been revealed by the BBC that, in confidential papers drawn up by the BMA, it is possible that there will be five day strikes each month for the rest of the year.
Jeremy Hunt has naturally found himself in the firing line, however, he has stated that he has made 107 concessions in the junior doctors’ contract, “bending over backwards” to be accommodating, as a result of meeting with the royal colleges and BMA in May. This contract was subsequently rejected by the junior doctors in July. The BMA stated that the junior doctors felt that not enough was done to “reward” those who, for example, work the most weekends. With the new contracts offering an increase in pay of 10-11%, weekend supplements of 10%, and nights being paid at 37% above the normal time, there have been allegations that these strikes are driven more by financial greed than patient welfare.
Dr Mark Porter, who is chairman of the BMA council, stated that the BMA was “united” behind junior doctors, he declined to comment on whether the council voted on this latest strike by a very small majority (16 vs 14). If this is the case, junior doctors might find themselves having less and less support, both in terms of the public and medical spheres, should their striking continue as is currently envisaged.