Junior doctors in England will strike for five days in July, in what is thought to be the longest single period of industrial action in the history of the health service, the British Medical Association announced on Friday.
The five-day walkout will take place between 7am on Thursday 13 July and 7am on Tuesday 18 July.
It comes amid a bitter dispute over pay and follows three previous rounds of industrial action.
Thousands of appointments and pre-planned operations are set to be disrupted as emergency and critical care is prioritised.
Co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “It has been almost a week since the last round of strikes finished but not once have we heard from Rishi Sunak or Steve Barclay in terms of reopening negotiations since their collapse of our talks and cancelling all scheduled meetings a month ago.
“What better indication of how committed they are to ending this dispute could we have?
“As their refusal to even discuss pay restoration leads to continued disruption to the health service, more than four-fifths of junior doctors report finding their patients supportive – they understand the value of a fully staffed and resourced NHS.”
But why are junior doctors in the NHS striking and will further industrial action take place?
When are junior doctors going on strike?
Members of the BMA will strike from 7am on Thursday 13 July and 7am on Tuesday 18 July.
This will be the fourth wave of junior doctor strikes this year.
The last round of industrial action staged by the BMA took place last week, and led to the cancellation of nearly 33,000 hospital appointments and procedures in London.
An average of 4,566 doctors walked out in London, which is at least 600 more than the North East, the second worst-affected region.
Junior doctors also walked out in March and April, causing hundreds of thousands more operations and procedures to be cancelled.
Why are junior doctors striking?
The BMA’s more than 36,000 members said they had decided to strike because they feel “overworked and undervalued”. They want a new pay increase of 35 per cent to make up for inflation in the past 15 years, which they said has cut their earnings by 26 per cent.
But Health Secretary Steve Barclay has branded the pay demand “unaffordable”, with both sides remaining deadlocked.
The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) union is striking over junior doctors being “taken for granted”.
HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “Junior doctors have held together patient care amid a spiralling staffing crisis. In return for this huge emotional, mental and physical toll, they’ve been subjected to a decade of real-terms pay cuts totalling over 26 per cent. Enough is enough.
“Our NHS is in an intolerable situation and junior doctors will not be taken for granted any more. They are taking decisive action for their patients and for their own wellbeing. Falling pay, increasing workloads and dangerous levels of understaffing have driven carers across the NHS to strike. The blame for this lies solely with a complacent government, seemingly content to let patient care suffer.”
Dr Narayanan said “the ball is firmly in the Government’s court” and that “it must act now to negotiate a proper pay increase as part of a wider funding package for the NHS”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and we have been clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of our main priorities. As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors’ pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2 per cent since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.
“The Health and Social Care Secretary has met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss pay, conditions and workload. He’s been clear he wants to continue discussing how we can make the NHS a better place to work for all.”