UK

Junior doctors to strike later this month, says BMA

The British Medical Association has not ruled out additional walkouts as its row with the Government continues.

New strike dates have been announced by junior doctors in England
Junior doctors on strike New strike dates have been announced by junior doctors in England (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Junior doctors will go on strike later this month as the pay row with the Government shows no signs of abating.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the Government had “failed to meet the deadline to put an improved pay offer on the table”.

Thousands of medics will now go on strike in England for five days from 7am on February 24 until 11.59pm on February 28.

The BMA has also not ruled out further strike action.

Junior doctors in England staged the longest strike in NHS history in January, for six full days from January 3 to January 9.

The latest round will be the 10th strike by junior doctors since March 2023.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said in a statement: “We have made every effort to work with the Government in finding a fair solution to this dispute whilst trying to avoid strike action.

“Even yesterday, we were willing to delay further strike action in exchange for a short extension of our current strike mandate.

“Had the Health Secretary agreed to this, an act of good faith on both sides, talks could have gone ahead without more strikes.

“Sadly, the Government declined.”

The statement said the “glacial speed of progress” over pay with the Government was “frustrating and incomprehensible”.

It added: “The Health Secretary was quite clear in media interviews during our last action that she would meet us ‘in 20 minutes’ when no strikes were planned.

“She also made clear that she had a further offer to make. It turned out to be more than 20 days before we were offered a meeting with a minister.

“When we did it wasn’t with the Health Secretary, and there was no offer on the table.

“Time has been lost that could have been used to negotiate with us, or at least with the Treasury and the Prime Minister for the mandate to make a credible offer.

“From the very start of the industrial action, we have been clear that there is no need for strike action as long as substantial progress is made, and we remain willing to carry on talking and to cancel the forthcoming strikes if significant progress is made and a credible offer is put forward. ”

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the latest strike is ‘not in the spirit of constructive dialogue’ to end the dispute
Cabinet meeting Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the latest strike is ‘not in the spirit of constructive dialogue’ to end the dispute (Victoria Jones/PA)

The BMA said the new round of strikes would be the last on their current mandate, which expires at the end of this month.

However, it is balloting on extending the mandate by a further six months.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I want to find a reasonable solution that ends strike action.

“This action called by the BMA junior doctor committee does not signal that they are ready to be reasonable.

“We already provided them with a pay increase of up to 10.3% and were prepared to go further.

“We urged them to put an offer to their members, but they refused. We are also open to further discussions on improving doctors’ and the wider workforce’s working lives.

“I want to focus on cutting waiting times for patients rather than industrial action.

Labour accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, centre, of blocking attempts to resolve the dispute
Rishi Sunak Labour accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, centre, of blocking attempts to resolve the dispute (Ben Birchall/PA)

“We have been making progress with waiting lists falling for three months in a row.

“Five days of action will put enormous pressure on the NHS and is not in the spirit of constructive dialogue.

“To make progress I ask the junior doctors’ committee to cancel their action and come back to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “personally blocking a deal with the junior doctors”.

“He bears responsibility for the cancelled operations and appointments desperate patients will face once again,” he added. “This can’t go on. Patients are desperate and staff are worn out.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters he wants the Government to “negotiate and bring this to an end”.

He added: “We now learn from officials that it is the Prime Minister himself who is personally blocking deals which could resolve this issue.

“I think the public will be frustrated, bordering on angry, now with the Prime Minister for letting this drag on for so long. Resolve it.”

Thousands of NHS appointments and operations are likely to be cancelled during the fresh round of strikes, after the six-day strike in January saw more than 100,000 appointments put on hold.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, described the announcement of further industrial action as “another body blow for leaders of NHS services already stretched to the limit”.

“Patients having to wait even longer for the care they need is a huge concern,” he said.

“Before it’s too late politicians and unions must get back to serious talks which can address doctors’ concerns, resolve the dispute and prevent more strikes.

“We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Trust leaders want to be able to put all of their energy into giving patients first-class care and cutting waiting lists rather than having to spend too much time planning for and coping with disruptive strikes.”

Junior doctors have received a pay rise averaging nearly 9% this financial year.

The BMA has been asking for 35% “pay restoration” as its starting position, but has said it is willing to negotiate.

Junior doctors make up around half of the NHS doctor workforce.

They can have up to nine years’ of working experience as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to five years’ experience to become a GP.

Junior doctor members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) will also walk out from February 24 until February 29.