Doctors in Suffolk suspend strikes as talks continue at national level

Junior doctors picketing at West Suffolk Hospital.

Junior doctors picketing at West Suffolk Hospital. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Next week’s strike by junior doctors has been suspended following further talks with the government, the British Medical Association has announced.

The BMA said it wanted to give NHS trusts as much notice as possible to avoid disruption to patients.

Thousands of operations and procedures would have been affected by the strike on January 26, when doctors were due to provide emergency care only.

But the BMA said “significant progress” still needed to be made to avoid a strike planned for February 10, when full labour, including emergency care cover, is due to be withdrawn.

It said “differences still exist between the BMA and the Government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctors’ working lives, and the recognition of unsocial hours”.

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Following a 24-hour walkout leading to the cancellation of around 4,000 operations last week, junior doctors were threatening two further strikes in their row over Government plans for more seven-day working.

Talks are under way and have managed to avert a 48-hour stoppage with the provision of emergency care only due to start on January 26, as well as a full withdrawal of labour, including emergency services, from 8am to 5pm on February 10.

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Prime minister David Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that further strikes are “unnecessary and damaging”, and his administration is “still happy to negotiate and talk”.

Asked if he would impose new conditions on junior doctors if it proved impossible to reach agreement, the PM said: “We can’t rule that out because we can’t simply go into a situation where the junior doctors have a complete veto and block over progress in our NHS.

“But we are talking to them in very good faith. I think we’ve settled 15 of the 16 issues that they raised. There’s an 11% basic pay rise on the table.

“So I would urge them to get round that table and have that final negotiation... I don’t want this strike situation to continue, what I want is what I put in our manifesto, which is a more seven-day NHS, for which we do need some contract changes.”

He added: “This is all a matter for discussion between the doctors and the health service managers and let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But if you rule out ever imposing a contract, you are basically giving a veto to the BMA over what the situation will be in future, and we can’t do that. We have a manifesto commitment to a seven-day NHS.”

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