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Junior Doctors' Strike Over Contract And Pay 'Drawn Out' By BMA, WhatsApp Message Leak Reveals

BMA chief caught saying he was 'played the political game of always looking reasonable'.

26/05/2016 13:23
BMA
The BMA's junior doctors' committee chair Johann Malawana that the best solution might be for the government to impose its new contract on doctors

Junior doctors' union leaders wanted to "draw out" the strikes with Jeremy Hunt over new pay and working conditions, a leak of their WhatsApp messages has revealed.

Senior executives in the British Medical Association (BMA) exchanged messages saying they wanted “punctuated [industrial action] for a prolonged period” and to tie “the DH [Department of Health] up in knots for the next 16-18 months”.

Weekend pay was "the only real red line" for junior doctors, according to the messages, despite the BMA insisting it was about patient safety.

The Health Service Journal revealed Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) chair Dr Johann Malawana wrote to colleagues that the "best solution" to his long-running feud with Hunt might be playing out the dispute for so long it would "force" the government "to impose [the contact] against our support”.

The allegations about the BMA's plans for dealing with NHS medics' contract negotiations run contrary to previous statements.

Dr Malawana said in February this year: “The government can avert this [strike] action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing rather than simply ignoring the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have.”

Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive
Hunt had faced accusations from the BMA of refusing to meet and listen to the concerns of junior doctors

The HSJ also disclosed that, despite protestations by BMA officials that their dispute was about safety, not pay, the issue of weekend renumeration, was described in the messages as “the only real red line” for junior doctors by a JDC executive member.

Dr Malawana also told the group of BMA executives that the series of talks in January overseen by mediators Acas were "rubbish" and that the JDC should take part only to "play the political game of always looking reasonable”.

The BMA did not deny the contents of the messages, but said instead that they reflected the anger of junior doctors who were frustrated at the government's refusal to address their concerns. 

A spokesperson for the union told The Huffington Post UK: “These conversations go back over six months and reflect the anger and frustration felt by junior doctors across the country due to the government’s refusal to listen to their concerns.

Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Tens of thousands of junior doctors spent months protesting having new pay and working conditions imposed on them

“Private discussions should not be mistaken for the agreed strategy of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, which was communicated publicly.

“It is less what was said during the heightened atmosphere of the biggest dispute between junior doctors and the government for 40 years that matters. What’s important is what was done in order to reach a negotiated agreement and ensure that the long-term interests of patients and the NHS are protected.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they were not commenting on the revelation, and were simply focused on organising for the implementation of the new contract that was agreed on by both Hunt and the BMA earlier this month

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