Junior doctors in England have suspended their strike action planned for three dates in December 2015 (1, 8 and 16 December) after agreement was reached with the government to resume negotiations over their new contract. Any strike action will now not happen before 13 January 2016.
The British Medical Association, the Department of Health, NHS Employers and the government agreed to resume talks and put the proposed new contract on hold on the evening of 30 November 2015, just hours before the first strike was due to begin. It was too late to reschedule operations which had already been cancelled ahead of the industrial action.
The move was announced after an outline agreement was reached between the sides following talks at conciliation service ACAS (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service).
BMA council chair Mark Porter says it is unfortunate the agreement was not made sooner but that “the right decision has been made”.
“A return to genuine negotiations is clearly preferable to the imposition of a new contract or industrial action and provides us with the best opportunity to deliver a contract for junior doctors which recognises the central role they play in delivering patient care across the NHS.”
The junior doctors will decide, pending the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, whether to reintroduce strikes in January, Porter says.
A statement released by ACAS on 30 November 2015 said the talks leading to the outline agreement were held in a “constructive manner and cooperative spirit” that will “allow an improvement in industrial relations”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs on 30 November 2015, before the strike was suspended, that 20,000 operations in England had to be cancelled because of the industrial action.