Hospitals gear up for strike by junior doctors


NHS hospitals across England are gearing up to reduce services as thousands of junior doctors prepare to go on strike.

Thousands of routine operations, appointments and procedures are expected to be cancelled as NHS trusts run a reduced service focusing on emergency care.

Talks aimed at resolving a dispute over a new contract failed on Friday, meaning a 24-hour strike will go ahead from 8am on Tuesday.

The Government, NHS Employers and the British Medical Association (BMA) have agreed to further talks with the hope of avoiding further damaging strikes, two of which have already been planned.

A spokesman for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), which has been hosting the talks, said "a very helpful stock-take of issues took place" and discussions were "constructive" but were not enough to stop the first strike.

The BMA has announced three spells of strike action as a result of the dispute, which includes problems over weekend pay.

Junior doctors are set to provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday.

This will be followed by a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on January 26.

On February 10, there will be a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm.

The basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

This is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay.

Under the Government's offer, junior doctors would receive time-and-a-half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time-and-a-third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.

Junior doctors would also receive on-call availability allowances, ranging from 2% to 6% of basic pay, as well as payment for work undertaken as a result of being on-call.

The BMA has said there are still several areas of dispute, despite Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying the only sticking point is weekend pay.

Suspended strike action in November led to the cancellation of thousands of operations, procedures and appointments.