The British Medical Association (BMA) revoked its permission for junior doctors to leave a picket line in Somerset on Tuesday, accusing a hospital of misleading the union on staffing numbers.
Under strike contingency plans, hospital leaders can request for doctors to return to work for a limited time in certain circumstances “to maintain safe patient care”.
As part of the junior doctors’ strike action the BMA had agreed to a derogation, or exemption, on Tuesday and Wednesday to cover the Emergency Department and acute medicine at Weston General Hospital.
It meant that seven junior doctors could return to work to help non-striking colleagues following what the BMA called “poor planning by local management” had left the hospital “exposed”.
The union said: “Protecting patient safety during strikes has always been a priority to the BMA.”
However, after revoking the derogation granted to Weston General, the BMA said: “It has become apparent that both the BMA and NHS England were misled over the level of staffing cover. Either local management were unaware they had sufficient senior cover, or they deliberately misled us.”
The BMA added that it intends to call for an official inquiry: “We will be asking NHSE [NHS England] to explore any potential probity issues.
“We granted a derogation in good faith and it is incredibly disappointing to see this abused in this way. We are grateful to our consultant and SAS [speciality] colleagues for their hard work providing cover during the strikes.”
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Weston General, has been approached for comment.
Some trusts have cancelled all leave for staff to try and fill rota gaps left by junior doctors, whose 96-hour strike continues until 7am on Saturday. Others have asked consultants on leave if they would be able to come in and work voluntarily as managers ensure that no emergency department puts patients at risk.
Dr Nick Scriven, an acute medicine consultant in Yorkshire, told i he would be “extremely surprised” if any A&E chose to close due to the industrial action “as repercussions for emergency care in that locality would be incredible and have impact on surrounding units”.
He said: “There is, as far as I can tell, no decrease in the support [among consultants] for our colleagues. Of course we all hope for a resolution, but we support their stance and urge the government to make an offer that can then be negotiated. Consultants, staff grade doctors and allied professionals are all putting patient care ahead of any other work duties to keep things as safe as they can.”