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Junior doctors in England set to begin five-day strike

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Junior doctors in England are set to begin a five-day strike in their ongoing pay row with the Government.

Thousands of medics are to walk out on Saturday from 7am until 11.59pm on February 28.

As the strike was due to begin, Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the (British Medical Association) BMA junior doctors committee had “refused to put our offer to their members” and called for more talks with the union.

She said they had been told the Government had been “prepared to go further than the pay increase of up to 10.3% that they have already received”.

In return, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “The Government could have stopped these strikes by simply making a credible pay offer for junior doctors in England to begin reversing the pay cuts they have inflicted upon us for more than a decade.

“The same Government could have even accepted our offer to delay this round of strike action to give more space for talks, all we asked for in return was a short extension of our mandate to strike.

“The fact that ministers have chosen strike action over what could have been the end of this year’s pay dispute is disappointing to say the least.”

The BMA has also not ruled out further strike action.

Junior doctors in England staged the longest strike in NHS history in January, for six full days from January 3 to January 9.

The latest round will be the 10th strike by junior doctors since March 2023.

Ms Atkins, who stated people should not overlook the potential impact the strikes could have on the NHS, said: “I want to see doctors treating patients, not standing on picket lines.”

She added: “More than 1.3 million appointments and operations have already been cancelled or rescheduled since industrial action began, five days of further action will compound this.

“The NHS has robust contingency plans in place, and it is vital that people continue to come forward for treatment.

“But no one should underestimate the impact these strikes have on our NHS.

“So again, I urge the BMA junior doctors committee to call off their strikes and show they are prepared to be reasonable, so that we can come back to the negotiating table to find a fair way forward.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, described the latest round of junior doctors’ strikes as having “a devastating impact on patients” but said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has the power to stop it but he is refusing to negotiate.

He said: “The second year of strikes is having a devastating impact on patients. 1.3 million operations and appointments have been cancelled, costing the NHS billions.

“Never forget that Rishi Sunak could end these strikes, but is refusing to negotiate.

“He would rather blame doctors and nurses for the appalling state of the NHS than take any responsibility himself.”

Thousands of NHS appointments and operations are likely to be cancelled during the fresh round of strikes, after the six-day strike in January saw more than 100,000 appointments put on hold.

Junior doctors have received a pay rise averaging nearly 9% this financial year.

The BMA has been asking for 35% “pay restoration” as its starting position, but has said it is willing to negotiate.

Junior doctors make up around half of the NHS doctor workforce.

They can have up to nine years’ of working experience as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to five years’ experience to become a GP.

Junior doctor members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) are also set to walk out from February 24 until February 29.