A tale of three disputes: junior doctors against the government 2015-2016

Winter 2016

This analysis of the collapse of the junior doctor’s strike of 2015-6 argues that a key problem for junior doctors was that the dispute involved three conflicts rolled into one, making it difficult to settle but also impossible to sustain. The conflicts were over the changes to what is considered a normal working week in the proposed new contract, as well as other pressures on junior doctors, who are at risk of becoming a high-end precariat; the strains currently experienced in the NHS due to government limits on its funding and the pressure for a ‘seven-day NHS’; and changing patterns of medical work for doctors in training. The strategy of the junior doctors is discussed, including their difficulty in separating out their own battle for better conditions and the wider issues of NHS viability. The ending of the strike without an agreed settlement is problem for the prestige of the BMA, and does not bode well for morale among junior doctors.

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Soundings 64: Critical times