Demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest by junior doctors, amid a dispute with the government over pay, outside of Saint Thomas Hospital, in London, on March 13, 2023. (Photo by Niklas HALLE’N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)
JUNIOR doctors in England will take further strike action later this month and in January, their trade union said on Tuesday (5), after weeks of talks with the government failed to end a long-running dispute over pay.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents nearly 200,000 doctors in Britain, said junior doctors would walk out from 0700 GMT on December 20 until 0700 GMT on December 23, and again from 0700 GMT on January 3 until 0700 GMT on January 9.
“We have been clear from the outset of these talks that we needed to move at pace and if we did not have a credible offer, we would be forced to call strikes,” Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, the BMA Junior Doctors Committee co-chairs, said.
“Even though the approach was more constructive, there was not enough on offer to shape a credible deal, which we hoped would end the dispute.”
The BMA said the government had offered an additional three per cent, unevenly spread across doctors’ grades, which it argued would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year.
Health secretary Victoria Atkins said it was disappointing the Junior Doctors Committee had walked away from negotiations and declared new strikes.
Atkins said the latest strikes would result in more disruption for patients and extra pressure on the NHS during a busy winter period. “If the Junior Doctors Committee call off their strikes, we will immediately look to come back to the table to continue negotiations,” Atkins said.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England, said January’s stoppage “will be the longest strike in NHS history during the busiest and toughest time of the year”.
A spokesman for prime minister Rishi Sunak described the planned action as “clearly” disappointing. He said the government’s offer had been “fair and reasonable”.
“Both the dates before Christmas and, indeed, the dates at the start of January are some of the most challenging times within the NHS, which obviously the junior doctors will be aware of,” the spokesman said.
Junior doctors have gone on strike at least six times since March.
Last month ministers reached a deal with medical unions which could see an end to strike action by consultants, in England.
The BMA said that offer, which will be put to a vote over the coming weeks, would see some doctors receive an additional uplift of as much as 12.8 per cent.
Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) also said junior doctors in England will stage a fresh 72-hour walkout from December 20 until December 22 over an ongoing dispute over pay.
“We need a resolution which answers the central issue here – the impact of years of real-terms salary cuts on recruitment, morale and retention,” HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said.