Junior doctors in England to strike for four days over pay dispute

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Prime Minister to resolve the dispute with junior doctors and end the strike, ITV News' Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe reports

Junior doctors will go on strike from February 24 to February 28, the British Medical Association has announced.

The union said the government had “failed to meet the deadline to put an improved pay offer on the table”.

But the BMA said the strikes could still be called off “if a credible offer is made”.

It added: “In a show of goodwill, the BMA provided the Health Secretary with an option to delay further strike action.

“She was asked to extend the current strike mandate for a short period – and thus allow talks to continue with the aim to achieve a resolution for this year’s dispute.

“Disappointingly, she declined to agree to extending the mandate.”

The new round of strikes would be the last on their current mandate with members but they are are already balloting for six months more strikes, the BMA said.

BMA junior doctors’ committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said in a statement: ​“The glacial speed of progress with the government is frustrating and incomprehensible.

“The Health Secretary was quite clear in media interviews during our last action that she would meet us ‘in 20 minutes’ when no strikes were planned. She also made clear that she had a further offer to make.

“It turned out to be more than 20 days before we were offered a meeting with a minister. When we did it wasn’t with the Health Secretary, and there was no offer on the table.

“Time has been lost that could have been used to negotiate with us, or at least with the Treasury and the prime minister for the mandate to make a credible offer."

Health secretary Victoria Atkins.

Sir Keir Starmer said the government's handling of negotiations has been "pathetic".

"I want the government to get in the room and negotiate and bring this to an end. Around Christmas time they were dancing around saying 'there may be a deal but we won't go in the room first' - I thought that was pathetic," Sir Keir said.

"We now learn from officials that it's the prime minister himself who is personally blocking a deal which could resolve this issue. I think the public will be frustrated and bordering on angry now with the prime minister."

'I don't think anybody who uses the NHS wants the strikes to go ahead, I don't think the doctors want them to go ahead'

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins responded: “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.

“We already provided them with a pay increase of up to 10.3% and were prepared to go further. We urged them to put an offer to their members, but they refused.

"We are also open to further discussions on improving doctors’ and the wider workforce’s working lives.“I want to focus on cutting waiting times for patients rather than industrial action. We have been making progress with waiting lists falling for three months in a row.

“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.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. Credit: PA

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, commenting on the announcement of a fresh round of junior doctor strikes, said: “Rishi Sunak is personally blocking a deal with the junior doctors. He bears responsibility for the cancelled operations and appointments desperate patients will face once again.

“This can’t go on. Patients are desperate and staff are worn out. If the Conservatives have given up on governing, they should step aside so Labour can get the NHS back on its feet.”

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