The British Medical Association (BMA) has called off the 48-hour junior doctors’ strike that had been scheduled to begin next Tuesday.
The decision comes amid continued talks between the BMA and the government about the terms included in a new contract for junior doctors in England.
The move to call off the strike is a positive sign that the two sides may be able to find an equitable solution. However, the BMA said a deal has not yet been reached and a potentially more disruptive full 24-hour walk-out without emergency cover could still go-ahead on 10 February.
The two sticking points of safeguards to prevent hospitals from overworking their junior doctors and payment for working weekends and unsociable hours remain.
Commenting on the decision to cancel next week’s industrial action, BMA junior doctor committee chair Dr Johann Malawana said:
“The BMA’s aim has always been to deliver a safe, fair junior doctor contract through negotiated agreement.
“Following junior doctors’ clear message to the government during last week’s action, our focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks.
“On this basis, the BMA has today taken the decision to suspend the industrial action planned for 26 to 28 January, thereby giving trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients.
“It is important to be clear, however, that differences still exist between the BMA and the government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctor’s working lives, and the recognition of unsocial hours.
“Significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted.”
A Department of Health spokesperson welcomed the news:
“It’s extremely welcome news that the BMA has suspended next week’s action, though as it stands emergency care will still be withdrawn in February.
In the end, the government and junior doctors want to do the same thing by improving patient care at weekends – and we look forward to further constructive discussions.”