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Junior doctors’ strike ‘may be called off’ following government talks

Following disputes over the government’s proposed new contract for junior doctors, 98 per cent of them voted in favour of industrial action. The first strike was scheduled to start at midnight tonight — but it may be called off.

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Here’s what you need to know about the junior doctors’ (qualified doctors who are not yet consultants or GPs) strike action.

Why are they going on strike?

Junior doctors argue that a new contract being pushed through by the Department of Health will force them to work longer hours with no extra pay, which will ultimately put patients’ lives at risk. Under the new contract, they would have to work longer “normal working hours” and lose the current safeguards which prevent excess rostered hours.

Although junior doctors would receive a raise in basic pay of 11 per cent, they would also see a 25 to 50 percent drop in unsocial hours pay.

Why does the government want to change the contract?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the changes are necessary for a so-called “seven-day NHS”, which ministers say would improve care on weekends. However, many top-ranking medics have criticised Hunt for this, as it implies (falsely) that the NHS does not already run a full service on weekends.

When are the strikes taking place?

Three strikes are planned for December. Junior doctors will provide “emergency care only” (similar to what is provided on Christmas Day) for 24 hours tomorrow (Dec. 1). On Dec. 8, there will be a full walk-out from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the same thing will happen on Dec. 16.

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What’s the latest news?

It emerged today that the BMA junior doctors negotiating committee is examining a potential last-minute deal between the British Medical Association and ministers, which could avert the strike.

Is there much support for the junior doctors?

Many high-profile figures — doctors and non-doctors alike — have publicly declared their support for the junior doctors. Prominent doctor Lord Robert Winston told Sky News that Jeremy Hunt’s plans for the NHS are “terribly dangerous”, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood designed #wearyourNHS T-shirts in support of the doctors.

In July, doctors, nurses and other NHS workers from across the country inundated Hunt with #ImInWorkJeremy selfies in response to his claim that the NHS had a “Monday to Friday” culture.

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