Junior doctor accuses Health Secretary Steve Barclay of undervaluing NHS

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Anna Youssef.

The Health Secretary Steve Barclay has been accused of 'not valuing the NHS' as thousands of junior doctors begin their four-day strike over pay and working conditions.

Doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) have mounted picket lines outside hospitals across the UK.

Downing Street insisted there will be no talks unless junior doctors abandon their "unreasonable" starting position of a 35% rise and call off the strikes.

Junior doctor Dr Siddhant Parashar, who spent the pandemic working on an intensive care unit at Royal Preston Hospital, says it is time Steve Barclay comes to the table.

Dr Parashar told ITV News: "The NHS is on the brink. The fact that Steve Barclay can't bring himself to negotiate, can't come to the table and talk to us, shows that he does not value the NHS."

The Health Secretary has called the walkouts "regrettable" and accused junior doctors of purposely timing the strikes “to have an impact on patients”.

An estimated 350,000 appointments will be cancelled as a result of the walkout, which Dr Parashar says is nothing in comparison to the '7.2 million people already on the waiting list.'

"The Government is not willing to put the money where it is needed to be spent, this is because staffing is at an all time low," he said.

"Doctors and nurses are leaving the country to go to places where they are valued with better pay and working hours - places like Australia, New Zealand and Canada."

Thousands of junior doctors take part in four-day strike. Credit: PA Images

NHS England said staff will be asked to prioritise emergency and urgent care over some routine appointments and procedures to ensure safe care for those in life-threatening situations over the next four days.

Senior doctors and medics who are not on strike have been diverted to cover these emergency services, such as A&E and maternity care.

Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: “Where we go forward is, of course, reserving the right for further industrial action if the Government doesn’t negotiate with us, but that’s all we want them to do.

“We just want them to come to the table in an honest and meaningful way.

“The Government has not even tried to meet us anywhere in the middle, it hasn’t given us a counter-offer at all.”

The health secretary Steve Barclay has said the strikes are "deeply regrettable" Credit: PA Images

The Health Secretary said: “I deeply regret these strikes and in particular the timing, which been timed deliberately coming straight after Easter, the fact that the BMA junior doctors have asked their members not to tell NHS managers whether they intended to go on strike or not – making contingency planning more difficult – and also their refusal to agree on any national exemptions."

He continued to say: “The Government has shown that it is willing to listen and to engage in meaningful and constructive talks.

“We are ready to have discussions with them but clearly a demand for 35% – over £20,000 for some junior doctors – is not fair or reasonable.”

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