Junior doctor strikes at Christmas ‘wrong’, says Rishi Sunak

The decision by junior doctors to strike over the Christmas period is “wrong”, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Prime Minister criticised the announcement by the British Medical Association (BMA), to take industrial action in England later this month and in January after talks with the Government to resolve the pay dispute broke down.

The three-day walkout in December – in just two weeks’ time – comes just days ahead of Christmas, while the six-day January strike will be the longest in NHS history.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak piled pressure on the striking medics, claiming that “every other part of the public sector” which had taken industrial action had now resolved its dispute with the Government.

Conservative former health minister Dr Caroline Johnson told MPs: “As someone who has worked as a junior doctor, I understand it is a demanding job and I have sympathy with the challenges they face, however, the strikes that are planned over the festive period threaten public safety and they will delay people’s treatment.

“Causing patient suffering in the pursuit of more money for oneself is in my view morally indefensible.

“Can the Prime Minister tell the House what concrete steps he is taking to prevent these strikes and whether he will bring forward minimum service legislation to protect patients in case they do?”

Mr Sunak replied: “The Government has now reached settlements with every other part of the public sector including most recently consultants, and I am grateful to them for their constructive engagement with the Government.

“The junior doctors are taking action in the face of a recommendation of an independent body of a 9% pay rise on average, the highest increase across the entire public sector.

“The Government has gone beyond that in conversations with them and they have still decided to take damaging strike action. It is wrong and that is why we have introduced minimum service levels to ensure that we can guarantee a safe level of care for patients across the NHS.

“It would be good to hear at some point from the Labour Party whether they will get off the fence, condemn these strikes and back these minimum service levels.”