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RCOphth concerned about the effect of prolonged junior doctor strike action will have on patient safety and the profession

5 September 2016

The BMA Council has confirmed that junior doctors in England will take further industrial action from September through to December. Between the hours of 0800hrs and 1700hrs from Monday 12 September through to Friday 16 September, there will be a full withdrawal of labour for five days.

RCOphth remains concerned that the dispute around the junior doctors’ contract continues with further industrial action planned. We have consistently stated our support for our junior doctors. A fair and agreed contract is essential for the stability and morale of all junior doctors who contribute enormously to patient care and the long-term future of the NHS.

We share the genuine concerns about the contract and the effects that this might have on the future of the medical workforce. These concerns need to be addressed through a process of measured, respectful and professional negotiation.

We have also acknowledged that this issue is complex reflecting long held valid concerns about the current medical training environment and the effects of an overstretched NHS.

The insufficient capacity within ophthalmology departments to manage all patients in a clinically safe time is already leading to some patients experiencing harm.  The proposed sustained strike action will exacerbate the demand placed on hospital eye services and cause further disruption and inconvenience for patients and adversely affect their care. However, we are confident that our consultants and the teams involved with delivering patient care in eye clinics will do their best to cover the gaps in services during this time.

This prolonged dispute benefits no-one – patients, the profession or anyone involved in healthcare. All possible steps must be taken to prevent further damage to an NHS that is currently under unprecedented pressure, allowing energy to be focused on the main underlying issue – a continued lack of resources to support and sustain the highest quality of care required for all patients.

RCOphth believes that both sides must work together to find acceptable and workable long-term solutions for the NHS, its workforce and patients.

Professor Carrie MacEwen