British Medical Association suspends further junior doctors' strike action

British Medical Association suspends further junior doctors' industrial action. Credit: John Stillwell / PA Archive

The British Medical Association (BMA) has suspended further junior doctor industrial action in England after concerns about patient safety.

The strikes had been scheduled for October 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11, November 14 to 18 and December 5 to 9.

The organisation said it reached the decision following feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and discussions with NHS England about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service if industrial action planned from October to December were to go ahead.

Dr Ellen McCourt, the chair of the BMA junior doctor committee, told ITV News that while junior doctors continued to reject the new contracts, concerns about patient safety had led them to cancel the planned strikes.

"The BMA junior doctors committee continues to reject the imposed contract," she said.

"However, patient safety is our outstanding concern, it is our primary concern, and when we're told the NHS is unable to cope, is unable to keep patients safe, we have decided to suspend industrial action."

In a statement, the BMA said the dispute was far from over and the union was planning "a range of other actions" to combat the Department of Health's plan to impose the contracts.

The Department of Health welcomed the suspension saying: "The best way to rebuild trust now is for industrial action to be called off permanently in the interests of patients - and we urge the BMA to do so."

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers, also welcomed the news.

He said: "The BMA's abandonment of the planned 5 day strikes in October, November and December will be welcomed by employers across the English NHS, as well as by the public. I again ask the BMA to commit to work with us to oversee and review the implementation of the new contract."

The Government and BMA remain at loggerheads over the new contract for junior doctors, which the Department of Health says will help to provide a seven-day NHS.

Six strikes have already taken place across England during the lengthy dispute, causing disruption to hundreds of thousands of patients who have had appointments and operations cancelled.

A first wave of strikes was supposed to start on September 12 but the union called off the first round of industrial action amid safety concerns.In May, it looked as though a breakthrough had been reached in the dispute after both sides agreed to a new deal.

Then in July, the Government announced that it would impose a new contract after junior doctors and medical students voted to reject the deal brokered between health leaders and the BMA.