Doctors' actions the last resort
With the breakdown in talks between the Department of Health and the BMA, the NHS finds itself at a critical junction.
For months junior doctors and other members of the health professions have been expressing concerns about the contents of the junior doctor contract.
The idea behind our concern is simple: how can extended services be provided using the same workforce and the same budget?
Currently, our health service is stretched to the absolute limit. The current staff works hard to keep the system afloat, but will not be able to provide more for less.
At face value, the idea of a junior doctor strike in England is terrible, but, in fact, this short-term measure should serve to ensure the NHS survives.
It is regrettable the negotiations have dissolved, but now more than ever the medical profession, other healthcare professionals and, most importantly, members of the public, must stand behind the BMA negotiators as they try to salvage our free health service.
It should be emphasised that during the strike days in England initially there will be a weekend-style service and no emergency care will be affected.
The strike can be called off at short notice depending on the outcome of negotiations. It has been suggested that this argument boils down to a lack of commitment by NHS staff, including junior doctors, to weekend care.
Anyone who knows the NHS will know this to be untrue, with both primary and secondary care provision for patients on a 24/7 basis. The reports of higher death-rates at weekends are misleading. It is a sad situation when Government spin overrides public opinion of doctors, who often work longer hours than they are required.
Although there is no strike action planned for Northern Ireland we will be watching England carefully. In the meantime it is important that the public stands behind their doctors, who have taken an oath to protect the health of their patients.
The contract changes are neither safe nor fair and we must unite against these measures that we feel spell the beginning of the end for our beloved NHS.
Dr Michael Moran is spokesman for Save Patients, Save Doctors NI