The junior doctors' contract dispute has heated up after the British Medical Association (BMA) dramatically announced that medics across England would escalate their industrial action in April to include A&E departments. The NHS workers had initially planned to provide emergency care only for 48 hours from 26 April 2016.
But now the junior doctors are to stage a total walkout from 8am to 5pm on 26 April and 8am to 5pm on the following day. The emergency-care-only action due to start at 8am on 6 April and end at 8am on 8 April is to go ahead as planned.
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, blamed the government's approach to negotiations for the move.
"No junior doctor wants to take this action but the government has left us with no choice," Malawana argued. "In refusing to lift imposition and listen to junior doctors' outstanding concerns, the government will bear direct responsibility for the first full walkout of doctors in this country."
He added: "The government is refusing to get back around the table and is ploughing ahead with plans to impose a contract junior doctors have no confidence in and have roundly rejected. We want to end this dispute through talks but the government is making this impossible, it is flatly refusing to engage with junior doctors, has done nothing to halt industrial action and is wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concerns over its plans to impose coming from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers."
The development will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt another headache after the top Tory announced that the government would impose a new, controversial contract on the medics. A Department of Health spokesperson said: "This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible – and will inevitably put patients in harm's way.
"If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through Acas [the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] in November, we'd have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders."