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Juniors plan latest five-day strike

Published on: 9 Feb 2024

Junior doctors have announced a further five full days of strike action this month, while their union has accused the health and social care secretary of refusing to extend their strike mandate to allow pay talks to continue.

The strike will run from 7am on Saturday 24 February to 11.59pm on Wednesday 28 February – although juniors on shifts which start on the Wednesday and continue into Thursday are being advised to work those shifts as normal.

Juniors’ leaders said in their announcement they had given government a deadline of 8 February to make a “credible offer”, and when it failed to put one forward, the BMA suggested negotiations could continue if Victoria Atkins granted a four-week extension to their current strike mandate, which expires on 29 February.

She declined, they said.

In December, Ms Atkins accused the BMA of walking away from live discussions before a final offer had been made, and said she would be willing to “get right back around the table” with them if they called off strike action. At the time the government was offering an additional 3 per cent on top of an 8.8 per cent average increase given in the summer.

Ms Atkins said: “I want to find a reasonable solution that ends strike action. This action called by the BMA junior doctor committee does not signal that they are ready to be reasonable…

“Five days of action will put enormous pressure on the NHS and is not in the spirit of constructive dialogue. To make progress I ask the junior doctor’s committee to cancel their action and come back to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS.”

The BMA is currently reballoting juniors on both strike action and action short of striking, and urging them to vote yes to both options. The ballot runs until 20 March and, if successful, would give the BMA a mandate until the autumn – and could see strikes close to a general election.

Previous ballots have resulted in very strong support for strikes on turnouts of more than 70 per cent.

Juniors are calling for pay “restoration” to 2008 levels allowing for inflation, claiming the real value of their pay has been cut by more than a quarter. However, their leaders have insisted they are not asking for this all in one go. Since March 2023, they have staged 10 strikes over a total of 34 days.

Consultants recently rejected the government’s offer to them by a very narrow margin.