Junior doctors in England to stage 72-hour strike in June after talks break down
Junior doctors in England will walk out for 72 hours next month with further strikes expected “throughout summer” after talks with the Government broke down.
The walkout will take place between 7am on Wednesday, 14 June and 7am on Saturday, 17 June, the British Medical Association (BMA) said, quashing hopes of a pay deal after weeks of talks that were thought to have been productive.
Next month’s walkout will be the third wave of action by junior doctors, with the BMA describing the Government’s offer of a 5 per cent pay increase as an “insult to junior doctors”.
The BMA is demanding a pay increase of 35 per cent, which it says would represent “full pay restoration” after years of real-term cuts inflicted by below-inflation pay deals.
Co-chairs Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson said: “There’s nothing junior about junior doctors, yet our pay has been cut by 26.1 per cent since 2008. We’re simply asking to be paid what we are worth.
“The Government know this is not a credible offer, it’s a delaying tactic. They’ve left us with no option but to return to the picket lines.
“They have failed to recognise our pay erosion, failed to recognise our efforts through Covid and are now failing us and the NHS again.
“When ministers are ready to address pay restoration and make a credible offer, we’ll be ready to talk. They can end this dispute tomorrow.
“Until then, we will keep striking throughout the summer, for as long as we have a mandate.”
The BMA’s demand is far in excess of the pay deal accepted by the NHS Staff Council earlier this month, covering all NHS staff aside from doctors and dentists, which entailed a 5 per cent pay rise for 2023-24 and a one-off lump sum of between £1,655 and £3,789.
A Government spokesperson said: “It is both surprising and deeply disappointing that the BMA Junior Doctors Committee has declared further strike action while constructive talks were ongoing. These will be hugely disruptive for patients and put pressure on other NHS staff.
“We made a fair and reasonable opening offer, and were in active discussions about both pay and non-pay issues.
“Unfortunately, it seems the BMA is unwilling to move meaningfully away from their unaffordable headline demands on pay.
“The Government has been clear that strikes must be paused while talks take place, so while the BMA has chosen to end our current discussions, we remain ready to continue them at any point if strikes are called off.”
A Department for Health source told i that “constructive” talks had been ongoing for about three weeks but the union was “not willing to move away from their unaffordable demand of a 35 per cent pay rise”.
The source said: “The one time they did shift from their demand was to ask for a 49 per cent pay rise. They wanted a multi-year pay deal that would talk them up to 2024/25 to restore their pay which would have amounted to a 49 per cent pay rise.
“The Government had made a reasonable offer, that was along similar lines to that offered to the NHS staff council.
“We had other meetings planned, but only if they moved away from the 35 per cent pay demand. Those meetings now cannot go ahead now that they have called these strikes. It is the BMA that has chosen to end these talks.
“If they are willing to call off the strikes and move away from their unrealistic pay demands then we might be able to hold further meetings.”
The breakdown of talks with the doctors shatters hope that the wave of strikes that have caused chaos across the NHS could be drawing to a close.
The Royal College of Nursing is re-balloting its members on further action after its six-month mandate for action expired, but it is not yet clear whether the union will clear the steep legal threshold of support needed for extra walkouts.