Junior doctors have gone on strike in what is the first all-out strike in the history of the National Health Service (NHS).
The doctors walked out of routine and emergency care at 8am today, Tuesday 26 April and will not return to work until 5pm. Further strike action is expected between the same hours on tomorrow, Wednesday 27 April.
The strike comes following a dispute between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government surrounding junior doctors’ working hours and pay. The two parties were unable to agree on a satisfactory contract and the government then announced in February that it would be imposing its contract on the BMA whether they agreed to it or not.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the strike is a “very, very bleak day for the NHS” but that the government will not back down on the imposition of the new contract.
“The reason this has happened is because the government has been unable to negotiate sensibly and reasonably with the BMA”, he said.
Leader of the BMA junior doctors Dr Johann Malawana says industrial action would never have taken place if the government had scrapped its plan to impose the contract.
“No doctor wants to take any action,” he said. “They want to be in work, treating patients, but by refusing to get back around the negotiating table the government has left them with no choice but to take short-term action to protect patient care in the long term”.
NHS hospitals are said to be coping well during the strike thanks to contingency planning which ensured they were as well prepared as possible.
NHS England’s Anne Rainsberry said: “Clearly industrial action of this type can put significant pressure on the NHS. We have been working with all hospitals to make sure they have plans in place to provide urgent and emergency care.”