• BMA council approves five-day strike by junior doctors next month
  • Decision follows rejection of compromise agreement reached between BMA negotiators and government
  • Strike action is likely to significantly affect the provision of NHS services and lead to thousands of cancelled operations

Junior doctors in England will stage a five-day walkout including emergency services in just two weeks’ time after a decision by the BMA council on Wednesday evening.

The BMA council met to discuss a proposal by the junior doctors’ committee to escalate industrial action in a last ditch bid to prevent the government from imposing a new contract.

Ministers announced they would impose the contract in July after junior doctors voted to reject a negotiated agreement between the union and the government. The first junior doctors are due to move on to the contract in October.

Doctors will walk out for five days from 8am to 5pm from Monday 12 September to Friday 16 September. The action is likely to lead to tens of thousands of cancelled operations and appointments.

During the last full walkout in April, which was over two days, more than 100,000 outpatient appointments were cancelled.

Leaked documents published by the Daily Mail ahead of the BMA council meeting revealed concerns by the junior doctor committee executive that it was losing public support. Private WhatsApp messages published by HSJ earlier this year showed members of the committee said pay was the “only real red line” in negotiations, and wanted to drag the dispute out over a long period to force the government to abandon imposition.

Ellen McCourt, chair of the committee, said on Wednesday: “With just weeks before the first group of doctors is moved onto the imposed contract, time is running out. This contract will be in place for many years, it will have a direct impact on patient care and whether we can attract and keep enough doctors in the NHS. It is too important to be rushed to meet a political deadline.

“We have a simple ask of the government: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “As doctors’ representatives, the BMA should be putting patients first not playing politics in a way that will be immensely damaging for vulnerable patients. What’s more, the BMA must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good one.

“Whilst there are many pressures on the front line, funding is at record levels, with the highest number of doctors employed in the history of the NHS. Cooperation not confrontation is the way forward to make sure patients get the best treatment and the NHS is there for people whenever they need it.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said: “Employers are shocked and saddened that the BMA council has supported the call from the junior doctors’ committee for further industrial action despite the BMA agreeing a deal with employers and the government in May.

“The proposed action is extreme in its scale and timing and shows scant regard for patients, nor to their colleagues who will have to work under even greater pressure when this industrial action goes ahead.

“Trusts will be working hard to minimise disruption, but many thousands of operations and appointments will need to be cancelled or rearranged causing distress, delay and pain to our patients.”