Doctors strike: NHS faces “significant disruption” as junior doctors begin longest strike in history
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Today, junior doctors have begun what will be five days of strike action, as disputes over pay continue. Junior doctors are pushing for a 35 per cent pay rise, which Health Secretary Steve Barclay has labelled as “unreasonable”.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are now mounting picket lines outside hospitals across the country, with hospital consultants and radiographers taking industrial action later this month.
It comes just days after planned junior doctor strikes in Scotland were called off after a new pay deal - increasing by 17.5 per cent over two years - was accepted. So far, the government has refused to engage with striking junior doctors in England.
BMA leaders Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Today marks the start of the longest single walkout by doctors in the NHS’s history, but this is still not a record that needs to go into the history books.
“We can call this strike off today if the UK Government will simply follow the example of the government in Scotland and drop their nonsensical precondition of not talking whilst strikes are announced and produce an offer which is credible to the doctors they are speaking with.
“The pay offer on the table to junior doctors in Scotland and how it was reached throws into sharp relief the obstinate approach being taken by the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay.
“The Health Secretary has said there can be no talks while strikes are planned – Scotland has proved him wrong. He said above per cent wasn’t realistic – Scotland proved him wrong. He refused to even acknowledge the concept of pay restoration – Scotland proved this is not only possible but essential.”
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, has warned patients that disruption will be “significantly higher” than in previous strikes.
He said: “This week will see the longest set of strikes in NHS history, which will inevitably cause significant disruption to our services.
“We’re working hard to priorities emergency and critical care, maternity services and trauma. The last set of industrial action by junior doctors saw 106,000 hospital appointments disrupted. This time, that number will likely be much higher and will be closely followed by consultant strikes.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay added: “It is disappointing that the BMA is going ahead with further strike action. This five-day walkout by junior doctors will have an impact on thousands of patients, put patient safety at risk and hamper efforts to cut NHS waiting lists.
“We were in discussions about pay and a range of other measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors until their representatives collapsed the negotiations by announcing further strikes. A pay demand of 3 per cent or more is unreasonable and risks fuelling inflation, which makes everyone poorer.
“Earlier this week I held a round table with doctors in training to talk about other key issues that affect them so we can work together to make the NHS a better place for all. We recently published the first ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan which includes measures to better support staff, improve training and double the number of medical school places by 2031.
“If the BMA shows willingness to move significantly from their current pay demands and cancels these damaging and disruptive strikes, we can get around the table to find a fair deal to resolve this dispute.”
Polling by YouGov has shown that public support for strikes has remained consistent throughout the year, despite repeated industrial action. Of all hospital workers, nurses reportedly have the strongest backing from Brits, followed by ambulance workers.
According to the BMA, the lowest pay grade is for junior doctors in their first year, who are paid an annual salary of £29,384.