The latest escalation in the row between the government and junior doctors could ’cause real problems for patients and the NHS’.

The British Medical Association announced a series of five-day strikes by junior doctors in the coming months in response to the government’s decision to impose a new contract that many argue will put patient safety at risk by spreading junior doctors too thinly across the health service or make them work longer unsafe hours.

The additional strike action will intensify what is already the worst industrial relations dispute in the history of the NHS.

Hospitals will see junior doctors stage walkouts between 08:00 and 17:00 BST on:
Monday 12 September to Friday 16 September
Wednesday 5 October to Tuesday 11 October (excluding the weekend)
Monday 14 November to Friday 18 November
Monday 5 December to Friday 9 December

BMA junior doctor leader Dr Ellen McCourt said the strikes could be called off if the government returned to the negotiating table and suspended the imposition of the new contract in October.

Throughout the dispute, health secretary has presented half-truths to the public about the service the NHS already provides on weekends. His interpretation of the statistics surrounding death rates at the weekend have been widely dismissed as political maneuverings by a man who has previously written about the need to privatise the health service.

Leaked Department of Health documents reveal that ministers have known since July that their plans for a “truly seven day NHS” without providing for additional staff and funds would cause “workforce overload” and could indanger the lives of patients – but the advice was ignored.

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said she was “gravely concerned” about the intensification of the industrial dispute, which will have a “catastrophic impact” on patients and families and push the NHS into crisis. She urged the Department of Health to resume talks with junior doctors “who are rightly concerned that new plans will risk patient safety”.

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