Junior doctors across England continue strike action

Junior doctors across England are continuing their strike action as the row with the Government over pay continues.

Junior medics – who make up around half of the medical workforce – will continue to strike on Thursday and Friday after holding the first-ever joint strike with consultants on Wednesday.

Further joint strikes by consultants and junior doctors are planned for October 2, 3 and 4.

It comes after the BBC used Freedom of Information laws to reveal the NHS is having to pay millions of pounds to cover for striking doctors.

In one case, a consultant in Plymouth was paid more than £3,000 to cover a 12.5-hour junior-doctor night shift.

Paying for cover is costing hospitals three times more than they save in the wages deducted from striking junior doctors, the study found.

(PA Graphics)

During the first three junior doctors’ strikes, University Hospitals Plymouth paid nearly £1.8 million for cover – £1.59 million to consultants – while less than £430,000 was saved in wage deductions, the BBC reported.

Some trusts have said they are having to pay premium rates set out by the British Medical Association (BMA) on what doctors should charge when asked to do non-contractual work.

For consultants, the rates range from £161 an hour for day shifts up to £269 for night shifts.

The BMA told the BBC the rates reflect the “market value”.

A spokeswoman said: “The rate card has been developed to address the fact that for too long trusts have been continually leaning on consultants to work many extra hours in excess of their normal contracts, not just during strike days but in the face of rota gaps and chronic workforce shortages.

“Crucially, the principle is to ensure that NHS trusts adopt a fairer and more consistent approach with rates based on those already being offered in parts of the country to reflect the market value of doctors’ work.”

It comes as the BMA announced that a third group of doctors are exploring whether or not to take strike action.

Specialist, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors are to hold an indicative ballot, which opens next week.

The doctors’ union said the 15,600 SAS doctors in England have “seen their real-terms pay plummet by as much as 31%” in the last 15 years.

Members of the British Medical Association on the picket line outside University Hospital Bristol and Weston
Members of the British Medical Association on the picket line outside University Hospital Bristol and Weston (Ben Birchall/PA)

Meanwhile, data collected by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) shows 22 critical incidents have been declared as a result of strike action since December.

In two instances, some critical care patients and gynaecology patients had to be moved to other hospitals due to insufficient staffing numbers and some urgent cancer surgery and chemotherapy appointments had to be rescheduled. Other urgent surgery on trauma patients could not go ahead, according to the DHSC.

Critical incidents, which show the service is under serious strain, are regularly called throughout winter by NHS trusts and ambulance trusts as they try to cope with rising demand.

On Tuesday, Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said consultants wanted an above-inflation pay award for this year, which in April was running about 11%.

Junior doctors have asked for 35% “pay restoration” as a “starting position” but have said they will meet with Mr Barclay “anywhere, anytime, to negotiate what this might look like”.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8%.

Consultants are receiving a 6% pay rise alongside “generous reforms to their pensions, which was the BMA’s (British Medical Association’s) number one ask”, he added.