Junior and senior doctors to strike together in England for the first time

BMA Joint strike
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On 31 August, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced that junior and senior doctors in England will go on strike together for the first time in the history of the NHS. This makes a new escalation in the workers’ long-running dispute with the government over pay and working conditions.

Junior doctors have already staged several days of strike action in recent months, and will walk out again in September. The BMA stated that they’ll strike on September 20-22, with one day coinciding with a strike by consultants. Then, junior doctors and consultants will also strike at the same time on October 2-4.

98% of junior doctors voted in favour of continuing industrial action, with a 71% turnout. This has renewed the mandate through to 29 February 2024 – a further six months.

‘No further negotiations’ with BMA

The Tory government has warned that there will be no further negotiations. They offered junior doctors a pay rise of just 6%, along with an additional consolidated increase of £1,250. Consultants also received an offer of 6%. This would do little to counter the fact that doctors’ take-home pay has been eroded over the last 15 years as salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation.

Health secretary Steve Barclay urged the BMA “to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption”. He claimed that nearly 900,000 appointments have been cancelled due to strike action, adding:

I fear the BMA’s hardline stance and threat of indefinite action means this number will only keep rising.

However, the NHS professionals reminded Barclay that the government could end the strike at any time. As a representative of the junior doctors stated:

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We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the prime minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members.

An untenable position

Rob Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, highlighted the fact that the NHS has already lost around £1bn due to strike action. This is roughly the same amount it would have cost to award the junior doctors their original demands.

The two stressed that:

There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us.

If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if [Sunak] continues to ignore us.

He knows the stakes, he knows our ask, and now he knows our resolve. The prime minister faces a profession united in its determination to address pay erosion.

Echoing Laurenson and Trivedi’s emphasis on the doctors’ united front, chair of the BMA consultants committee Vishal Sharma added:

Now, facing the prospect of six months’ more action, including days of both junior and consultant walkouts, surely the severity of the situation with doctors’ pay could not be clearer?

Our message is simple: work with us, negotiate with us both and we can look forward not to months of more walkouts but instead to a bigger, better valued and more effective medical workforce fit for the future.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via British Medical Association

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