Barclay’s meeting with doctors over pay dispute postponed until Thursday

Doctors’ leaders are to meet with the Health Secretary on Thursday after an initial meeting to discuss concerns over pay was postponed so the minister could give media interviews.

Steve Barclay said he was due to speak to unions on Wednesday to discuss industrial relations, but the British Medical Association (BMA) said the Health Secretary had cancelled the talks.

Addressing the current pay negotiations, Mr Barclay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I met with the unions again on Monday, I’m meeting further with the doctors’ unions later today.

“We want to work constructively with the trade unions in terms of this year’s coming pay review body.”

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But the BMA tweeted: “We see that Steve Barclay has told BBC R4 Today programme he is meeting with doctors later today.

“Actually he cancelled the 9am meeting we agreed so he could do media, and a further meeting is not yet agreed.

“Hopefully it will be soon.”

The BMA’s chair of council, Professor Phil Banfield said that BMA representatives had rearranged commitments in order to meet with the minister.

“He cancelled the 9am meeting we had all rearranged our commitments [for] so he could do media and a further meeting is not yet agreed,” he wrote on Twitter.

The union later confirmed the meeting had been rescheduled to Thursday morning.

A Department of Health and Social Care official said that the BMA had been offered several alternative times to meet on Wednesday.

Abound 45,000 members of the British Medical Association were balloted on the prospect of strike action on Monday, with the result due at the end of February.

The BMA has told the Government if there is a yes vote, junior doctors will begin their action with a 72-hour “full walkout” in March.

Junior doctors will not provide emergency care during any strike, the BMA has said, adding trusts will need to arrange emergency cover to ensure patient safety.

Meanwhile the HCSA – the hospital doctors’ union – said it was also meeting with Mr Barclay on Thursday.

Junior doctor members of HCSA are currently voting in a strike ballot which closes on January 20, which could result in walkouts in February.

HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “We shall go into tomorrow’s meeting with an open mind but it is essential that the Government realises the mood of the medical workforce.

“Hospital doctors are leaving the NHS at a time we can least afford it and morale is at rock bottom. Pay and pensions are at the heart of the issue.

“They cannot expect junior doctors in particular to just move on from another pay award in 2022 that fell lamentably short of inflation.

“There is every chance of a strike vote due to the complacent attitude by successive governments towards clear and growing alienation.”

The British Dental Association (BDA) will also be in attendance.

BDA chairman Eddie Crouch said: “England’s dentists have just been handed an unprecedented pay cut at the eleventh hour. If Steve Barclay wants to win over NHS colleagues, he must turn the page.

“Current pay review processes offer textbook examples of what not to do.

“Every dedicated health professional requires fair and timely pay uplifts. When so many are reconsidering their future in the NHS, to do otherwise is an act of self-harm.”