The British Medical Association has announced a fresh wave of escalated strike action that will see junior doctors walk out for four days in April.
The union confirmed the strikes will last from 7am on 11 April until 7am on 15 April. It will involve a stoppage of all work including nights, on-call shifts and non-residential work, as happened in the three days of strikes earlier this month. Trusts will need to arrange emergency cover to ensure patient safety.
Junior doctor members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union have also announced strike action on these dates.
The strike period immediately follows the four-day Easter bank holiday weekend.
The British Medical Association claims junior doctors’ pay has fallen by 26 per cent over the last 15 years. It wants this reversed and is calling for “full pay restoration”.
In a message sent out to members via Whatsapp today, the BMA junior doctors committee said health secretary Steve Barclay claimed their request was “unreasonable”, espically compared to other unions who have been “offered less”.
“(Mr) Barclay came with no alternative offer but asked our negotiation team to ‘reflect on’ our demand. Whilst in the room, he produced a new set of pre-conditions, including ‘media silence’ but immediately briefed the Mail and the Telegraph post-meeting,” the message said.
The last 72-hour junior doctors strike saw more than 175,000 operations cancelled.
Vivek Trivedi and Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctor committee, said: “The government has dragged its feet at every opportunity. It has not presented any credible offer and is refusing to accept that there is any case for pay restoration, describing our central ask as ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unreasonable’. Even yesterday they continued to add new unacceptable preconditions to talks instead of getting on and trying to find a resolution.
“This situation is entirely of the government’s own making. We want to spend our time looking after patients, not on strike. But with an NHS buckling under a workforce crisis, and four in ten junior doctors looking to leave, we can’t stand by while our pay is further eroded by inflation and an intransigent government.
“We are not going to stop until we are paid what we are worth, and if ministers don’t accept that when we tell them in person, we will have to tell them from the picket line.”
HCSA president Naru Narayanan said: “HCSA wrote to Steve Barclay last week warning that his preconditions presented an impassable barrier to us getting round the table to find a resolution.
“This is in a different league from anything we have seen before. Junior doctors have told us they want to see real action on long-term pay cuts to head off the growing plague of short staffing we are seeing and prevent colleagues departing abroad or from our NHS.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said they asked the BMA to agree to standard principles of engagement while negotiations take place, including confidentiality, which other health unions accepted.
He added: “The health and social care secretary met the BMA’s junior doctors committee yesterday in the hope of beginning constructive talks to resolve the current dispute. The BMA placed a pre-condition on these talks of a 35 per cent pay rise. That is unreasonable.
“Our door remains open to constructive conversations, as we have had with other health unions, to find a realistic way forward which balances rewarding junior doctors for their hard work while being fair to the taxpayer.”