Junior doctors to hold fresh strikes in pay row
Junior doctors in England are to stage a fresh round of strikes after talks with the Government failed to resolve a bitter row over pay.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said a 96-hour walkout will take place for shifts starting between 0659 on Tuesday April 11 and 0659 on Saturday April 15.
The BMA said Health Secretary Steve Barclay had failed to make any “credible offer”, accusing the Government of not being serious about resolving the dispute.
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctor committee, said: “It is with disappointment and great frustration that we must announce this new industrial action.
“The Government has dragged its feet at every opportunity. It has not presented any credible offer and is refusing to accept that there is any case for pay restoration, describing our central ask as ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unreasonable’.
“Even yesterday they continued to add new unacceptable pre-conditions to talks instead of getting on and trying to find a resolution.
“We therefore have no confidence that without further action these negotiations can be successful.
“This situation is entirely of the Government’s own making.
“We want to spend our time looking after patients, not on strike, but with an NHS buckling under a workforce crisis, and four in 10 junior doctors looking to leave, we can’t stand by while our pay is further eroded by inflation and an intransigent Government.
“We are not going to stop until we are paid what we are worth, and if ministers don’t accept that when we tell them in person, we will have to tell them from the picket line.”
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “The prospect of a 96-hour strike by junior doctors will ring alarm bells for trust leaders up and down the country.
“It would immediately follow a four-day bank holiday weekend, meaning demand will have piled up before the strike even begins on April 11. There will also be no exemptions.
“This threatens the biggest disruption from NHS walkouts so far. There should be no doubt about the scale of the impact on patients, staff and the NHS. No-one wants this.
“It’s hugely disappointing that talks between the Government and the doctors’ unions have broken down.
“Trust leaders understand why junior doctors feel they’ve been pushed to this point, but it’s incumbent on all involved to urgently re-enter talks in good faith.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This hugely disappointing news will be a blow to leaders’ efforts to tackle the backlog and further industrial action will have a significant impact on patient care.
“Leaders will have been hoping for progress and an outcome similar to negotiations with the Agenda for Change unions, so news of another, longer walkout is a huge setback for plans. Sadly, it is inevitable that this will impact on patient safety and dignity.
“The level of disruption caused by the last junior doctors’ walkout was greater than that of all the other recent strikes put together, so leaders will be dismayed about a repeat and worried about the impact on patient care, particularly just after Easter.
“Based on last time, it seems likely that up to a quarter of a million appointments and operations may need to be postponed as a result of this next wave of strikes.
“Complicating matters further is the fact that leaders are unlikely to be able to call again on consultants in the same way to fill in rota gaps, due to many having accumulated leave from providing cover during the first strikes.
“This poses a huge challenge to services already stretched by having too few staff, so another walkout poses a real risk to patient safety.
“We know that no-one wants to take industrial action and choosing to strike is not a decision anyone takes lightly, but we would encourage junior doctors to further reflect on the potential damage a four-day walkout could do, and what it will mean for patients.
“That said, the Government must act decisively to provide a meaningful incentive to make junior doctors reconsider and come back to the table.
“Digging in and dragging this out does no-one any favours, least of all patients, so a swift resolution must be found; both sides must be willing to make compromises in order for that to happen.”
Junior doctors in the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) will strike on the same days.
The union, which represents around 600 junior doctors, accused the Government of refusing to drop pre-conditions for talks to resolve the dispute.
HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “HCSA wrote to Steve Barclay last week warning that his pre-conditions presented an impassable barrier to us getting round the table to find a resolution.
“It is hugely disappointing that the Government has seen fit to ignore the overwhelming support among junior doctors for this dispute driven by year after year of real-terms pay cuts.
“This isn’t about unions not playing ball, it is about a complacent underestimation of the strength of feeling on the ground and the impact that ever-decreasing pay is having on services.
“This is in a different league from anything we have seen before. Junior doctors have told us they want to see real action on long-term pay cuts to head off the growing plague of short staffing we are seeing and prevent colleagues departing abroad or from our NHS.
“To resolve this dispute the Government must drop the theatrics, engage sincerely and recognise the long-term danger to the NHS and health services if we do not retain the doctors we need.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Further strikes will risk patient safety and cause further disruption.
“The Health and Social Care Secretary met the BMA’s junior doctors committee yesterday in the hope of beginning constructive talks to resolve the current dispute.
“The BMA placed a pre-condition on these talks of a 35% pay rise. That is unreasonable.
“Our door remains open to constructive conversations, as we have had with other health unions, to find a realistic way forward which balances rewarding junior doctors for their hard work while being fair to the taxpayer.”
The BMA later denied it had placed a pre-condition on talks of a 35% pay rise.
A BMA spokesperson said: “We have not made 35% a pre-condition to talks. In fact, we have set no pre-conditions – unlike the Health Secretary.
“The ask of 35% pay restoration is our starting position, and we are willing to meet with the Health Secretary anywhere, anytime, to negotiate what this might look like.”