Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Strike Is off, but Too Late for Patients

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Strike Is off, but Too Late for Patients

Article excerpt

Byline: Craig Thompson Chief Reporter craig.thompson@ncjmedia.co.uk

THOUSANDS of patients have had their operations and appointments cancelled despite a strike by junior doctors being called off last night.

A temporary agreement reached between Government officials, the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers means three days of strikes will now no longer go ahead as long as a final settlement can be agreed.

There has already been mass disruption to the NHS, with thousands of patients unable to undergo operations or attend appointments today alone.

In Newcastle 90 operations and 565 appointments had been cancelled.

Doctors from across the North were due to take action over pay and working conditions, providing emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am today followed by full walkouts from 8am to 5pm on December 8 and 16.

Junior doctors could still have a new contract imposed on them by the Government despite a potential agreement being reached, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The Health Secretary insisted he must retain the right to impose new terms at some point despite the "time-limited" agreement for the BMA to suspend strike action if the Government agrees not to impose a new contract.

Mr Hunt also denied claims that he had mishandled the dispute after Labour claimed that disruption caused to patients by cancelled operations could have been avoided had he agreed to mediated talks earlier.

Mr Hunt insisted the BMA could not be given a "veto" over new contracts as the Government moves towards a seven-day NHS that voters backed at the general election.

In a statement to the Commons, the Health Secretary said: "We can't do it because it would be to give the BMA a veto over a manifesto commitment that has been endorsed by the British people. What we have said is that we will suspend proceedings on the new contracts during the period in which negotiations happen, a short time-limited period, and in return the BMA will suspend the threat of strikes for that time-limited period. …

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