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Junior doctors threaten to strike 'indefinitely' for 35% pay rise

Junior doctors threaten to strike ‘indefinitely’ unless Government caves in to their demands for whopping 35% pay rise

  • More than half a million appointments and operations have been cancelled
  • Up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant went on a 72-hour strike

Junior doctors have threatened to walk out ‘indefinitely’ if the government refuses to cave in to their demands for an inflation-busting pay rise.

The British Medical Association has told ministers they must boost pay by at least 35 per cent if they want to bring the industrial action to an end.

It warned its row is not a ‘flash in the pan’ and it is prepared to reballot members ‘again and again and again’ to maintain a strike mandate.

The alarming warning would see waiting lists, which already stand at a record 7.4million, soar further and leave patients waiting longer in pain.

More than half a million appointments and operations have been cancelled as a result of NHS strikes by the likes of junior doctors, nurses and physiotherapists since December.

Junior doctors are in a three day walkout that NHS chiefs have said could cause ‘significant disruption’ to the health service. Pictured: Striking British Medical Association members outside of Bristol Royal Infirmary

More than half a million NHS appointments in England have been cancelled due to health service strikes since December, official figures show

Up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant launched their latest 72-hour walk-out at 7am on Wednesday, including from cancer wards and A&E.

Hundreds of them held a noisy protest outside the NHS ConfedExpo conference, as health secretary Steve Barclay gave a speech to health leaders inside.

Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, told reporters: ‘There will come a time when the inevitable will happen – it will probably look like an indefinite withdrawal of labour.’

He said the committee will be ‘continually assessing’ when an indefinite walkout could begin and it could coordinate strikes with consultants if they also vote to strike in their own ballot, which is currently open.

It may see consultants and junior doctors alternate strikes back-to-back as they ‘unite against the government’, he added.

This would potentially lead to the cancellation of appointments for a week at a time.

Junior doctors have already vowed to strike for at least three days a month until the dispute ends and the BMA will reballot members from June 19 to August 31, which would renew its mandate until March next year.

Dr Laurenson said: ‘If we need to, [we will] reballot again, and then if we need to, we will reballot again, and we will reballot again, and we will keep going until our members tell us to stop or they accept whatever deal the Government is prepared to put across that is reasonable.

‘This isn’t a flash in the pan cry for pay because of the cost of living crisis alone – this is something that has been building up for 15 years.

‘It needs to be a serious package that goes into restoring pay in its entirety going back to 2008.’

He said the government could achieve this 35 per cent rise through ‘single digit or very low double digit’ rises over a number of years.

However, Whitehall source say the union demanded a 49 per cent pay rise when proposing a multi-year deal during recent negotiations.

Many key NHS figures left the NHS’s annual conference early to manage the strike’s fallout.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the strike is a ‘serious risk to patient safety’ and industrial action ‘creates risk and upheaval’.

She said tens of thousands of appointments will be affected.

Speaking before leaving the conference to co-ordinate the strike response from the London office, she told delegates on Wednesday: ‘We must prioritise the management of what is a serious business continuity incident and therefore a serious risk to patient safety.’

She added: ‘As much as we learn from managing each action every time it happens, it creates risk and upheaval and distracts from our priorities, particularly elective recovery.

‘Over half a million appointments have already had to be rescheduled. Many of those people will have been waiting months.

Cheeky advert encouraging striking junior doctors to desert NHS and join Australia crops up ON the picket line (and it was paid for by their Government!) 

‘It’s likely we’ll see tens of thousands more affected this week.

‘So while the NHS will of course expertly manage the incident to the best of our ability, I know we all hope for a resolution soon.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations and is a co-organiser of the conference, said: ‘The suggestion that junior doctors could strike regularly over consecutive days every month for a year or more will be extremely worrying to healthcare leaders.

‘If further industrial action is also co-ordinated with strikes by consultant doctors, should they announce they have a mandate, then patient safety will be put at further risk.

‘We know health services are already struggling with severe staff shortages in many areas, and with the NHS carrying over 120,000 vacancies, further industrial action will very likely leave one of the Prime Minister’s key missions, that of reducing waiting lists, at risk.’

Mr Barclay said it was in his own interests for the dispute to come to a resolution and he stands ready for ‘further discussions’ with junior doctors.

He told delegates at the conference: ‘It’s in my interest because of the five priorities that the Prime Minister has set out the one that sits with me – cutting the waiting times – obviously relies on us moving forward in terms of working closely with our clinicians, working effectively and how we address that.

‘In terms of the junior doctors, we had three weeks of intensive discussions, we responded constructively to their request – which was to bring in a very experienced intermediary – but to date we haven’t seen any movement at all from the 35 per cent demand that the junior doctors have made.

‘I think there needs to be movement on both sides.

‘We’ve set out as part of our discussions both a recognition of the offer that we’ve made into a lump sum, but our desire to work on a wider package with junior doctors.

‘When I think of the other challenges that Government has, and when we reach these decisions on a cross-government basis: how we tackle the challenge on inflation; how we cut the debt, how we grow the economy, and we have got to balance that with the needs of the NHS.

‘Within the NHS, we need to think not just the importance of pay, but the importance of the numbers, we also need to think about the importance of investing in the NHS estate.

‘Then we also need to invest in tech.

‘So, there’s a combination of things, but we want to work constructively and stand ready to have further discussions.’

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  • Posted on June 15, 2023