HSJ’s roundup after the first day of the junior doctors’ strike

What follows the walkout?

For the first time in over 40 years thousands of junior doctors downed their stethoscopes today in a protest against the government’s plans to reforms their contracts. The day of action has seen thousands of operations cancelled.

The placards have been waved and the angry debates and recriminations thrown by both sides – but as the dust settles and the NHS prepares for business as usual, uncomfortable reality will set in for both the government and British Medical Association.

A negotiated settlement is the only real option – and always was.

The legacy of the industrial action is likely to be the damaged relationships and loss of trust across the NHS. Throughout today there has been suspicion, leaked emails and accusations between doctors and their trusts about the state of preparedness for the strikes.

Even before the strike began, a series of unedifying letters between NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and BMA council chair Mark Porter set the tone for the day. Neither leader was prepared to back down over what they believed was the proper way for a major incident to be handled.

Keeping a low profile was health secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose intervention last summer, after the BMA had refused to engage with NHS Employers since October 2014, led largely to the anger and desire to strike by many doctors.

As a 48 hour strike on 26 January looms, neither the BMA nor trusts will want to see a repeat of today’s bruising rhetoric. The long lasting damage to workforce relations could take years to repair.

The BMA must not overstretch its muscle or it risks losing public support and playing into the hands of government ministers hoping it stumbles. Meanwhile, ministers and Sir David Dalton (brought in to lead negotiations through Acas) need to be prepared to negotiate a contract that can be realistically sold to junior doctors as a compromise good for all sides.

NHS trust in the dock

The first corporate manslaughter prosecution against an NHS trust began in London on Tuesday.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust denies the charge, which has been made under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, while consultant anaesthetist Errol Cornish has pleaded not guilty to gross negligence manslaughter.

A jury is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday morning at Inner London Crown Court, followed by opening statements in the case.