Why are junior doctors dtriking? Nine things you need to know about the dispute

PUBLISHED: 17:58 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:34 27 April 2016

Junior doctors on strike at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

Junior doctors on strike at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

Today 55,000 junior doctors in England staged the first-ever complete strike in the history of the NHS, leading to more than 100 oeprations being cancelled in Suffolk and hundreds of appointments being cancelled.

This comes after a serious of less drastic strikes over new working conditions that the Government are trying to impose.

Here we give a break down of what has been happening.

1. A study published by the British Medical Journal in September found those admitted on a Saturday were 10% more likely to die than those admitted on a Wednesday. That figure rises to 15% for those admitted on a Sunday. Doctors argue that this is because they are stretched on weekends due to lack of staff.

2. The government is trying to push for a seven-day NHS service to make round-the-clock healthcare safer for patients. Junior doctors already work weekends - in fact, they provide the bulk of the medical staffing on Saturdays and Sundays.

3. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has argued that he wants to improve care on Saturdays and Sundays and new contracts for junior doctors could be the answer.

4. The government and doctors’ representatives continue to disagree over the new contracts. These contracts affect the doctors’ salaries and the doctor’s hours. The way that doctors have always been paid is split into two. They get a basic salary and they then get paid for anti-social hours.

5. The government is proposing that they change the hours that are classed as social and anti social hours, which would affect how much certain doctors get paid.

6. Basic pay is to be increased by 13.5% on average. But that comes with a compromise. Other elements that doctors get paid for are to be cut, including what constitutes unsociable hours. Things like day hours on a Saturday will be paid at a normal rate rather than an unsociable rate.

7. Initially doctors won’t lose pay. Ministers have promised to protect the pay of existing doctors for the first three years. The changes have partly been designed to make it cheaper to roster extra doctors on at weekends. Because of this, medics are likely to find they are working more weekends, which, under the existing contract, would have led to extra pay. The new contract means that they will earn less.

8. Doctors’ unions argue that there is not an incentive for people to train as doctors if they have to potentially work seven days a week with basic pay. This creates a cycle where they are lacking staff at weekends when they actually need extra staff.

9. Some doctors have argued that more people die at weekends because of the long hours the over-stretched staff are working, whcih can lead to mistakes while on duty. They argue this could be avoided if there were more doctors available to cover shifts.

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