The junior doctors' contract dispute has escalated further after NHS medics voted overwhelmingly for three days of strike action across England in December. Doctors are worried that proposed changes to their work agreements will force them to work longer hours for less money.
But Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has offered the medics a pay hike of 11% and warned on 19 November that the planned walkout from British Medical Association (BMA) members could endanger patients.
"It is regrettable that junior doctors have voted for industrial action, which will put patients at risk and see operations cancelled or delayed," Hunt said.
When are the junior doctors going to strike?
1 December: The medics will only provide emergency care
8 December: Junior doctors will stage a total strike from 8am to 5pm GMT
16 December: Junior doctors will stage a total strike from 8am to 5pm GMT
"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% 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."
However, the BMA has accused the top Conservative of "imposing" the new contract on junior doctors and, after more than 27,000 (98%) of the medics voted for the strike, claimed the planned work agreement would put patients at risk.
"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," said Dr Mark Porter, the council chair of the BMA.
"The health secretary is right when he says this action is 'wholly avoidable'. Our message to him is that junior doctors have today made their views perfectly clear, but it is still possible to get back around the negotiating table to deliver a contract that is safe for patients, contains the necessary contractual safeguards to prevent junior doctors being overworked and properly recognises evening and weekend work."
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