Who is Dr Rob Laurenson? BMA leader reportedly apologises after holiday during junior doctors' strikes

The co-leader of the BMA's junior doctors’ committee has reportedly booked the time off as annual leave, meaning he will be paid while his striking colleagues will not

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One of the leaders of the junior doctors’ union has reportedly apologised to colleagues, after it was revealed he has taken a week's leave to reportedly attend a wedding during four days of strike action.

An estimated 47,600 junior doctors across England began a four-day strike on Tuesday (11 April), part of a worsening dispute over pay. It threatens to cause huge disruption to the NHS, with an estimated 350,000 appointments cancelled.

The strikes centre around a pay row between the BMA and the government, with the union claiming junior doctors in England have seen a 26% real-terms pay cut since 2008/09 because pay rises have been below inflation. The union has asked for a full pay restoration that the government said would amount to a 35% pay rise – which ministers have said is unaffordable.

The Telegraph reports Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors committee, will not be appearing on the picket lines with his colleagues this week, with the now familiar figure from the negotiation table understood to be on holiday.

Who is Dr Robert Laurenson?

Dr Robert Laurenson is co-chair of the BMA's junior doctors’ committee, alongside Dr Vivek Trivedi. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dr Laurenson is a trainee GP with the Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust.

He studied medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and before that attended Sevenoaks School, a highly selective coeducational private school in Kent.

Co-chair of the BMA's junior doctors' committee Rob Laurenson has reportedly gone on holiday during the strike action (Photo: PA)Co-chair of the BMA's junior doctors' committee Rob Laurenson has reportedly gone on holiday during the strike action (Photo: PA)
Co-chair of the BMA's junior doctors' committee Rob Laurenson has reportedly gone on holiday during the strike action (Photo: PA)

The 28-year-old was present at negotiations with health secretary Steve Barclay last month, where junior doctors were offered the same pay deal as other striking NHS workers. The talks reportedly broke down in just half an hour.

At the time, Dr Laurenson apologised for the disruption further walkouts would cause, but said he did not think it would put patients’ lives at risk. He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “We have a healthcare crisis at the moment, we have 500 excess deaths, 500 British people dying needlessly a week in winter, and we’re trying to address real healthcare crises.

“And so we’re trying to approach this from a perspective of doctors looking after patients and wanting to deliver high-quality healthcare, and Mr Barclay is just trying to pinch pennies," he said.

Dr Laurenson said at the moment, doctors start on £14 an hour, and the BMA wanted that restored to £19 an hour. “I think, if you were to ask the ordinary person on the street would they be happy to pay a doctor, 7pm on a Friday night, £19 an hour, I think you’d get a resounding ‘Yes, that’s reasonable’.”

“We’re very happy to get around the table. [Early April] will mark six months since we started our formal trade dispute, and Mr Barclay has only come to the table twice," he added. “It’s really very difficult to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t even want to invite us in, and indeed on Wednesday he left the room."

Why has he reportedly gone on holiday during strike action?

The Telegraph reports Dr Laurenson is still in the UK and was understood to still be “actively involved” in the dispute. But the co-chairman was noticeably absent from the picket lines, central London rally, and media appearances on Tuesday.

According to The Independent, the junior doctor is attending a family friend's wedding. But the outlet says he has reportedly booked the time off as annual leave, meaning he will continue being paid while his striking colleagues will not.

The timing of his holiday has been panned by many from the Conservative camp. Tory MP Julian Knight told The Independent: “The junior doctors’ strike is deeply irresponsible and their demands are totally unreasonable. Having orchestrated this disaster for patients and our NHS, for the union leader to then swan off in this manner is adding insult to injury.”

But Dr Laurenson has been defended by colleagues, who have insisted he is “fulfilling a long-standing commitment”, and remains actively engaged in planning and negotiations.

Has Dr Laurenson apologised to colleagues?

The Telegraph reports Dr Laurenson posted a message to colleagues in an online forum, after one expressed "disappointment" in his decision.

"I can see that you feel undermined and I am really sorry my actions have contributed to that," he wrote. "The thing most important to me is the integrity of the unity of doctors and that is why I’m at pains to be as transparent as possible and accountable as possible."

He apologised that the reporting of his decision to take the week off has "been able to compromise my character in your eyes”, and added, "I hope you can forgive me".

NationalWorld has approached Dr Laurenson for comment.

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