HEALTH services in Wigan will face disruption when the borough’s junior doctors walk out on strike next month.
The British Medical Association confirmed yesterday that 98 per cent of junior doctors voted to take industrial action, including strike action, in protest at proposed changes to their contracts.
The BMA argues that the new contracts which the Department of Health plans to impose on all junior doctors, which are qualified medical practitioners undertaking postgraduate training to become a consultant or GP, from April 2006 would lead to unsafe working conditions and risk patient safety as a result.
Across the country, junior doctors will only provide emergency care only from 8am on December 1 until 8pm on December 2 and stage two full walkouts from 8am until 5pm on December 8 and December 16.
The BMA revealed that 99.4 per cent of the 76 per cent of junior doctors who responded to the ballet voted to take industrial action short of a strike but said there was a resounding mandate for industrial action, including a full walkout.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said: “We regret the inevitable disruption that this will cause but it is the Government’s adamant insistence on imposing a contract that is unsafe for patients in the future, and unfair for doctors now and in the future, that has brought us to this point.
“Patients are doctors’ first priority, which is why, even with such a resounding mandate, we are keen to avert the need for industrial action, which is why we have approached ACAS to offer conciliatory talks with the health secretary and NHS Employers to clarify the conflicting information coming from government over the past weeks.”
The association has approached ACAS to offer conciliatory talks with health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS Employers.
Director of Workforce at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust Alison Balson said: “We have been working on our plans over the last week in anticipation of yesterday’s announcement and have developed contingency plans.
“We are working closely with our local BMA representatives to ensure that patient safety, which is everyone’s key priority, is not compromised.
“As we will need to change the normal working activities of some of our consultants and other senior doctors to deliver essential ward based services during the periods of industrial action, a proportion of non-urgent elective work will be cancelled to ensure that our inpatient and emergency services can be delivered safely.
“Any affected patients will be advised if there are changes to their scheduled appointments.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It is regrettable that junior doctors have voted for industrial action which will put patients at risk and see operations cancelled or delayed.
“We want to ensure patients have the same quality of care across the week, and have put forward a generous offer that increases basic pay by 11 per cent and reduces doctors’ hours.
“We hope junior doctors will consider the impact this action – especially the withdrawal of emergency care – will have on patients and reconsider.”
Unions have backed the British Medical Association over strikes but some groups are warning of the risks to patient care.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The Patients Association are extremely worried by the confirmation that industrial action by junior doctors will go ahead.
“Patient safety will undoubtedly be put at risk by this decision.”