Junior doctors launch four-day strike set to be ‘the most disruptive in NHS history’ demanding 35% pay rise today
- Doctors will mount picket lines outside hospitals from 7am today until Saturday
- An estimated 350,000 NHS appointments will be cancelled due to the strikes
Junior doctors are mounting the picket lines today beginning a four-day strike which could be ‘the most disruptive in NHS history’ as they demand a 35 per cent pay rise.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) will assemble outside hospitals from 7am today until Saturday morning, threatening huge disruption to the healthcare system.
An estimated 350,000 appointments, including operations, will be cancelled as a result of the walkout. NHS bosses say the strike is putting ‘immense pressures’ on staff and services.
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 per cent 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 per cent pay rise – which ministers have said is unaffordable.
Junior doctors are mounting the picket lines today, beginning a four-day strike set to be ‘the most disruptive in NHS history’ as they demand for a 35 per cent pay rise. Pictured: Striking junior doctors at Homerton Hospital in Hackney hold a rally on March 14
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 per cent real-terms pay cut since 2008/09 because pay rises have been below inflation. Pictured: Junior doctors on strike at Leeds General Infirmary in Leeds on March 13
BMA officials said the pay issue is making it harder to recruit and retain junior doctors, with members previously walking out for three days in March.
The union has previously said it was willing to enter talks with Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay and suspend strikes if members were presented with a ‘credible’ pay offer ‘to resolve 15 years of pay erosion’.
On Sunday, national medical director of NHS England Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the strikes will put ‘immense pressures’ on staff and services.
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Health Secretary Steve Barclay has accused ‘militant’ unions of making ‘unrealistic’ pay demands as junior doctors prepare for four days of walkouts this week
NHS England said staff will be asked to prioritise emergency and urgent care over some routine appointments and procedures to ensure safe care for those in life-threatening situations.
Managers have said patient care is ‘on a knife edge’ because of the strike, while NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said the number of appointments cancelled, previously suggested to be 250,000, was likely to rise by another 100,000.
The health body said appointments and operations will only be cancelled ‘where unavoidable’ and patients will be offered alternative dates as soon as possible.
Mr Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation which is a membership organisation that represents healthcare bodies in the UK, said the likely impact of the strike is ‘heartbreaking’ and called on both sides to end their ‘battle of rhetoric’.
He said there is ‘no question’ this strike will be more disruptive than the 72-hour walkouts by NHS staff last month, which led to 175,000 cancelled appointments.
Mr Barclay added: ‘It is extremely disappointing the BMA has called strike action for four consecutive days.
‘Not only will the walkouts risk patient safety, but they have also been timed to maximise disruption after the Easter break.
‘I hoped to begin formal pay negotiations with the BMA last month but its demand for a 35 per cent pay rise is unreasonable – it would result in some junior doctors receiving a pay rise of over £20,000.
‘If the BMA is willing to move significantly from this position and cancel strikes we can resume confidential talks and find a way forward, as we have done with other unions.
‘People should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs.’
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) will assemble outside hospitals from 7am today until Saturday morning, threatening huge disruption to the healthcare system. Pictured: Junior doctors picket outside The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on March 14
The union has asked for a full pay restoration that the Government said would amount to a 35 per cent pay rise – which ministers have said is unaffordable. Pictured: Striking junior doctors at Homerton Hospital in Hackney on March 14
Speaking about pay negotiations which would avoid the action, Mr Taylor told BBC Breakfast yesterday: ‘It’s depressing that there seems to be no movement at all from the two sides of this dispute over the last few days.
‘We should consider asking the Government and the trade unions to call in Acas, the conciliation service, to provide some basis for negotiations, because if anything the positions seem to have hardened over the last couple of days.’
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: ‘The junior doctors’ strike this week will cause huge disruption to patient care.
‘Where is the Prime Minister and why hasn’t he tried to stop it?
‘Rishi Sunak says he “wouldn’t want to get in the middle of” NHS pay disputes.
‘Patients are crying out for leadership, but instead they are getting weakness.’
BMA junior doctor committee co-chairman Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘We were knocking on the Health Secretary’s door, asking to meet with him to negotiate a settlement to this dispute, long before the current strike got underway.
‘We have been in a formal dispute since October. He refused to respond and meet us until we had a strike ballot result. He has had months to put a credible offer on the table and avert industrial action, so for him to say, ‘It’s disappointing,’ is at best disingenuous.
‘We have always maintained our aim is for full pay restoration – to reverse the more than 26 per cent real-terms pay cuts Mr Barclay’s Government have imposed on us over the past 15 years, putting starting salaries up by just £5 per hour to £19.
Managers have said patient care is ‘on a knife edge’ because of the strike, while NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said the number of appointments cancelled, previously suggested to be 250,000, was likely to rise by another 100,000. Pictured: Junior doctors rally in Whitehall opposite Downing Street on March 13
BMA officials said the pay issue is making it harder to recruit and retain junior doctors, with members previously walking out for three days in March. Pictured: Striking doctors rally outside Downing Street on March 13
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‘We have always maintained we are willing to negotiate on how to achieve pay restoration, so for Mr Barclay to suggest we had any preconditions is yet again disingenuous.
‘The reality is that the Health Secretary has had every opportunity to bring an end to the dispute. His decision to refuse to table a credible offer – indeed he has not tabled a single offer so far – means that this action is solely due to this Government’s repeated inaction.
‘We would still be willing to suspend strike action this week if the Secretary of State makes a credible offer that can be the basis of negotiation.’
Meanwhile, the BMA is highlighting low pay as part of a new advertising campaign in support of the pay dispute by junior doctors in England.
Three junior doctors would make just £66.55 between them for taking out your appendix, the union has said.
Three doctors with 10, seven and one year of experience would make just £28, £24.46, and £14.09 respectively by performing the potentially life-saving procedure, the trade union for doctors said in a press release.
Dr Jennifer Barclay, a surgical doctor in the North West, said: ‘There is nothing “junior” about the work I have done as a doctor.
‘I’ll be trying to focus on steady, controlled hand movements, thinking about the next steps and communicating with the rest of the team.
‘Meanwhile, my bleep is going off incessantly in the background with more and more patients waiting to be seen as soon as I get out of theatre. For that hour of work that might save a life I can be paid £19.’
She added: ‘Surely, this life, the training, responsibility, debt and crushing workload is worth more than £19 per hour? I’ll be on the picket line this week because doctors believe that it is.’
The BMA has highlighted the low pay as part of a new advertising campaign in support of the pay dispute by junior doctors in England
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs, said: ‘It is appalling that this Government feels that paying three junior doctors as little as £66.55 between them for work of this value, is justified.
‘This is highly skilled work requiring years of study and intensive training in a high-pressure environment where the job can be a matter of life and death.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘This campaign is misleading as it does not take account of the additional earning capacity and pay progression available to junior doctors.
‘The most experienced junior doctors now have a higher pay band – meaning they received a cumulative increase of 24 per cent over four years. We’ve also increased rates of pay for night shifts and created a permanent £1,000 allowance a year for junior doctors who work less than full time, on top of their usual pay.
‘The BMA’s demand for a 35 per cent pay rise is unreasonable and unaffordable. We urge them to come to the table with a realistic approach so we can find a way forward, as we have done with other health unions, which balances fairly rewarding junior doctors for their hard work with meeting the government’s ambition halve inflation.’
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