The British Medical Association has suspended next week’s planned strike action, after being told by NHS England that services “cannot cope with the notice period” that was given.
Last Wednesday, the union announced a five-day walkout starting on Monday 12 September. Five days of strike action are still planned for each of October, November and December.
“We have to listen to our colleagues”
In a statement published on Monday afternoon, the BMA said: “For the first time in this dispute NHS England have told us that a service under such pressure cannot cope with the notice period for industrial action given.
“Our hospitals are chronically under-staffed. Our NHS is desperately underfunded. We have to listen to our colleagues when they tell us that they need more time to keep patients safe,” it said.
“We have also listened to the concerns of working doctors, patient groups and the public. Thousands of you have been in touch, your level of anger over the secretary of state’s imposed contract remains high, but at the same time you want to keep your patients safe during industrial action,” it added.
“The BMA is therefore suspending the industrial action planned for the week of 12 September,” it said. “The remaining programme of industrial action stays in place.”
The statement urged the government to listen to its concerns before the action due to start on 5 October, and said the action will be called off if the government agrees not to impose the new contract and works to negotiate a new deal.
In response to the BMA cancelling industrial action in September, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “The NHS will be relieved that the BMA has called off next week’s industrial action.
“We remain concerned however that the planned industrial action in October, November and December is an excessive response to any outstanding concerns, particularly as it relates to a contract agreed by the BMA junior doctors’ committee as recently as May,” he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The public will be relieved that the BMA has decided to call off the first phase of these unprecedented strikes, so this is welcome news.
“But if the BMA were really serious about patient safety, they would immediately cancel their remaining plans for industrial action which, as the GMC says, will only cause patients to suffer,” he said.
In a joint statement, the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers both welcomed the strike cancellation but urged the BMA to call off all remaining industrial action.
The two organisations, which represent acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England, said they wrote to the BMA on Friday calling for the strikes to be cancelled.
NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Dalton added: “We urge all parties to continue talking to find a resolution before further industrial action takes place.”