Hospitals prepare for mass disruption as junior doctor strikes set to hit Yorkshire

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Junior doctors in Yorkshire claim to have been “backed into a corner” as they prepare for strike action next week.

There are around 6,000 trainees in the White Rose likely to be in some way involved in newly-announced strikes on January 12, 26 and February 10 in the dispute over proposed changes to their contracts.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Pickets, first aid sessions and Meet the Doctors events are already being organised ahead of the 24-hour period of reduced ‘emergency care only’ staffing from 8am next Tuesday.

Meanwhile hospital trusts nationally are putting plans in place to reduce the impact of the walk-outs on patients.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he was “extremely disappointed” that the BMA had called strikes, claiming that Monday’s talks lasted less than an hour before union chiefs walked out.

A group of Yorkshire juniors, who organised a protest over Government’s plans in Leeds in October, said: “Sadly we have once again been backed into a corner. The Government are still not taking our concerns seriously.”

The BMA’s other planned strikes include a 48-hour period of emergency care only from January 26 and a full nine-hour walk-out on February 10.

The last minute decision to suspend three December strikes resulted in thousands of minor operations and outpatient clinics being postponed nationwide last year, and similar disruption is expected in the coming weeks.

Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said like other trusts it is refining its planning to ensure all patients are looked after “safely and appropriately during any industrial action”.

The basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government’s offer from early November, including an 11 per cent rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

This is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours, which many fear will leave them worse off.

Juniors claim that the scrapping of working hour safeguards and the reduction in pay for weekend working puts their profession, patients and the NHS at risk long term.

The BMA revealed the new strike plans after talks with the Government broke down on Monday. It blames the Government’s “failure” to address concerns over working hour safeguards and payment for unsocial hours for its decision.

Yesterday Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the talks were “making very good progress” and added that “the door is open”.

He said: “The talks lasted less than an hour and they walked out and started the strikes going.”

Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander has accused Mr Hunt of playing a game of “brinkmanship” over the contract changes.

Fears of disruption

Three junior doctor strikes were narrowly avoided in December after the BMA and the Government agreed to get back around the negotiating table.

It was estimated that, had they gone ahead, up to 20,000 non-urgent operations in England would have been cancelled.

The announcement of three new strikes is igniting fears of similar disruption. Junior doctors will provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am next Tuesday.

This will be followed by a 48-hour emergency care only strike from 8am on January 26 and a full withdrawal of labour on February 10 from 8am to 5pm.