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Hospital bosses' strike break requests not about patient safety, says BMA

HOSPITAL bosses were urged to stand up to political pressure today, after more than 20 asked junior doctors to return to work over patient safety fears on the first day of their six-day strike.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it refused to approve the requests because NHS England and some trusts were refusing to provide evidence that they have “exhausted” all other sources of staffing before recalling medics.

In a letter to the chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, BMA chairman Professor Philip Banfield said: “This refusal to provide the information necessary to take well-informed decisions is fundamentally undermining the derogation process as we are being asked to take decisions about our members’ right to strike without the requisite information.

“NHS England, it seems, is wilfully placing the BMA in an impossible situation.

“We are increasingly drawing the conclusion that NHS England’s change in attitude towards the process is not due to concerns around patient safety but due to political pressure to maintain a higher level of service, undermine our strike action and push the BMA into refusing an increasing number of requests — requests, we believe, that would not have been put to us during previous rounds of strike action.”

NHS Confederation chief Matthew Taylor claimed: “This is more about them [hospital leaders] needing to limit the precious time they and their teams have available to fill in forms when patient safety could be at risk.”

NHS Employers chief Danny Mortimer insisted that “these are clinical, not political, interventions.”

NHS England said the derogation requests were “to be expected” as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted NHS leaders are “completely independent of government.”

But Dr John Lister, secretary of Keep Our NHS Public campaign group, told the Morning Star: “It seems clear that in NHS England and the minority of trusts that have sought to abuse the system and undermine the BMA strike action — their loyalty is to ministers  rather than to their own staff and the future of the services they provide.

“It’s time for the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and indeed NHS England to stand with their staff and stand up to government, demanding ministers resume talks with the BMA rather than assisting ministers’ efforts to discredit and undermine the strikes.”

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