Junior doctors’ leaders to halt strikes and enter pay talks

Junior doctors’ leaders have become the latest union to agree to suspend industrial action and accept an offer of pay talks with the Government.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the British Medical Association had agreed to enter negotiations on the same terms as unions representing nurses, ambulance staff and other NHS workers in talks which concluded this week.

“We deeply regret that over 175,000 appointments and procedures were cancelled this week, despite our offer to start formal talks on the condition strikes were paused,” a DHSC spokesman said.

“However we are pleased the BMA has now accepted our offer to enter talks based on the same terms as with the agenda for change unions – which concluded positively this week.

“We want to find a fair settlement which recognises the crucial role of junior doctors and the wider economic pressures facing the UK, as we have done with other unions.”

The move follows a three-day walkout by junior doctors in support of their demand for a 35% pay increase – a claim ministers have said is unaffordable.

In a statement posted on social media, the junior doctors’ representatives at the BMA confirmed they had written to Health Secretary Steve Barclay offering to meet next week.

They acknowledged some members would have “reservations” about the suspension of industrial action, but said they were ready to return to the picket line in the event of a “substandard offer”.

They wrote: “We are entering these negotiations in good faith and, having completed our initial 72-hour strike, there is a window of opportunity here where we can achieve full pay restoration.

“This has always been our aim, and we will always be willing to talk anywhere and on any grounds that do not prevent us from achieving this goal.”

It follows the breakthrough in the NHS dispute on Thursday, with leaders of nurses, ambulance crews and other health workers agreeing to suspend further industrial action while ballots are held on a new pay offer.

Earlier, NHS England medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the doctors’ strike had been on “an unprecedented scale and had a greater impact than all the other industrial action we have seen so far this winter combined”.

“Despite the huge efforts that NHS staff made to keep patients safe and minimise disruption, this strike was on an unprecedented scale and had a greater impact than all the other industrial action we have seen so far this winter combined,” he said.

“Over 175,000 appointments and procedures were rescheduled to protect emergency, critical and urgent care for patients, which will inevitably impact on efforts to tackle the Covid backlog.”