JANUARY 3, 2024

By Harry Mottram: The RUH have issued advice to visitors and patients as the British Medical Association (BMA) members stage a six day strike affected NHS service users in Bath and the rest of the country. The BMA is usually considered to be the trade union from most Junior Doctors – although the term includes doctors of all ages and experiences and not just trainees.

In advice published on the hospital website the RUH stated: “Patient safety is our top priority, and we are committed to keeping disruption caused by industrial action to a minimum. If you have an appointment or procedure booked, please attend unless you hear from us. You do not need to call to check if your appointment is going ahead. We will be in touch with patients directly if we need to rearrange an appointment.

“Our emergency department remains open 24 hours a day, if you have a life-threatening emergency. Please be aware that, like others across the NHS, our Emergency Department is really busy. If you have a minor illness or minor injury, local GP surgeries and pharmacies are open. If you have an urgent medical problem that is not an emergency and aren’t sure what to do, contact 111 first online or by phone – they will provide immediate medical advice and direct you to the best care for your needs. In emergencies, please call 999.

“We continue to welcome family members and loved ones to visit patients. There are no changes to our visiting arrangements during industrial action so please continue to follow the visiting hours provided by the ward team.”

It is the longest strike in the history of the NHS with the BMA’s Junior Doctors walking out over six days as they demand ‘wage restoration’ – in other words a pay rise to catch up with several years of wage cuts in real terms. The industrial action follows the breakdown of pay talks in December between the government and British Medical Association to resolve the dispute. To cover the absence senior doctors and consultants are being reassigned to cover for the junior doctors although routine hospital services, such as planned operations, like hip and knee replacements and check-ups, will be disrupted. However, it is expected that A&E will remain open in most cases and many striking doctors will return to work to cover a major emergency – and it should be noted not all junior doctors are members of the BMA and are not on strike.

The dispute is over the BMA seeking a 35% wage increase which has been rejected by the Government who have made an offer of 3% with a further increase in the spring to give an average of a 9% rise. The BMA said that was too little as wages had been below-inflation pay rises since 2008.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has asked for the junior doctors to suspend strike action and return to the negotiating table, ‘so we can find a fair and reasonable solution to end the strikes once and for all’.  This was rejected by the BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi who said the government needed to come forward with a “credible offer”.

The BBC reported that in August, a pay deal was reached with junior doctors in Scotland. It includes a 12.4% pay increase for 2023/24, in addition to a wage rise of 4.5% for 2022/23 with ministers also promising talks on future pay increases.

The Strike Action is from 7am Wednesday 3 January until 7am Tuesday 9 January, 2024.

For the advice from the RUH see https://www.ruh.nhs.uk/media/news_homepage/2024_01_Industrial_Action_Update.asp

For the view of the BMA see https://www.bma.org.uk/

For the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care see https://www.gov.uk/government/ministers/secretary-of-state-for-health-and-social-care#:~:text=Current%20role%20holder-,The%20Rt%20Hon%20Victoria%20Atkins%20MP,Care%20on%2013%20November%202023.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and  Email:harryfmottram@gmail.com
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