Jeremy Hunt has refused two last ditch attempts to negotiate with the BMA and stop the two all-out strikes planned for later this week.
In response to the threatened imposition of a new contract, junior doctors are preparing for all-out strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday without offering emergency care cover between 08:00 BST and 17:00 BST each day.
The BMA said it would call off the strike if Hunt’s threat to impose a contract on junior doctors was lifted, but the health secretary has said he will impose the contract on junior doctors across England this summer despite complaints that the changes will negatively impact patient safety.
In a letter to Hunt, BMA junior doctor committee chair Dr Johann Malawana said:
“Simply put, if the Government will lift the imposition, junior doctors will call off next week’s strike action on 26 and 27 April.
“The imposition of this contract is tremendously damaging to the morale of junior doctors and medical students and has resulted in a complete breakdown of trust between doctors and the Government. It is this decision which has led to the current, lamentable situation, the resolution to which is now squarely in your hands.
“As you know, no junior doctor wants to have to take industrial action, but they have been left without further recourse. Junior doctors who I meet up and down the country are saying they will not accept a contract being forced on them, a contract which the Government’s own equality impact assessment acknowledges to be discriminatory to women.”
Hunt also dismissed a second BMA-backed offer to stop the strikes proposed by a cross-party group of MPs, which suggested the controversial new contract should be piloted to assess its impact before being implemented across England
If they go ahead, the strikes will be the first time in the history of the NHS that junior doctors will have walked out of emergency units, urgent maternity services, and other emergency teams.
Alongside industrial action, the BMA and campaign group Just Health have launched two separate legal bids to prevent the imposition of the new junior doctors’ contract.
In a statement, NHS England said A&E departments will remain open during the strikes, with essential care provided by consultants and other senior staff.