Junior doctors in England will take industrial action on three dates in December — subject to the outcome of the ballot on the proposed contract.
The BMA has taken the extraordinary step of announcing the proposed dates, times and type of action, ahead of the close of the ballot next Wednesday, 18 November, in a bid to minimise the impact on patients and fellow doctors, and allow employers time to prepare.
The action will begin with an emergency care-only model, which would see junior doctors provide the same level of service that happens in their given specialty, hospital or GP practice on Christmas Day.
It will then escalate to full walk-outs. The action is proposed as:
Emergency care only — from 8am, Tuesday 1 December to 8am Wednesday 2 December
Full walk out — from 8am to 5pm, Tuesday 8 December
Full walk out — from 8am to 5pm, Wednesday 16 December.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said: “We are releasing this information at this early stage because we want to give as much notice as possible.
“It sounds like an oxymoron when talking about industrial action, but we genuinely want to minimise any disruption to other NHS staff and, above all, to patients.
“Our dispute is with the Government and our ballot for industrial action is a last resort in the face of their continued intransigence.”
Dr Porter also updated members on legal advice the BMA has obtained from John Hendy QC, the leading authority on labour relations law, following suggestions by an NHS trust that the proposed industrial action is in breach of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
“In short, it is counsel’s opinion that the suggestions made by the trust are seriously misleading.
“The offence to which they have referred only applies when a doctor acts with malice towards the patient concerned and when he or she knows that the probable — not just possible — consequence of their action in breaching their employment contract would be the death or serious injury of the patient concerned,” Dr Porter said.
“This is highly unlikely to apply to any doctor participating in the proposed industrial action. It is also worth noting that no prosecution of the sort suggested by the trust has ever been brought under the act.”
Dr Porter adds that the BMA has been clear about what needs to change in the contract proposals but the Government had refused these safeguards.
The unity of the profession, regardless of branch of practice or seniority, underlines the strength of feeling and solidarity in standing with our junior doctor colleagues in defence of patients and our working lives, he says.
Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, said: “We know this will have a huge impact on patient care and we urge the BMA to avoid putting patients and the NHS in this position by returning to talks with us.
“Proposed industrial action, as outlined by the BMA would be hugely regrettable. Employers across the NHS will be extremely disappointed and anxious about the difficult situation they will find themselves in to make sure work schedules are met and patient care is not compromised.”