JUNIOR DOCTORS and consultants in England will jointly undertake four days of strike action, beginning this month, as junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of continuing their industrial action in their campaign for full pay restoration.
Across September and October, for the first time in the history of the NHS, there will be four days in which junior doctors and consultants coordinate industrial action. This is in addition to other days on which just juniors or just consultants will be on strike.
Against the backdrop of a hugely understaffed and under-resourced health service, junior doctors and consultants have seen their pay drop in real terms by over a third in the past 15 years. The Government continues to refuse to even enter talks with either group to try to bring an end to the disputes.
Junior doctors have staged 19 days of strike action since March of this year; consultants have staged four days, and there are at least five more planned in the coming weeks, including four days of combined action with junior doctors. The four days in September and October will see ‘Christmas Day’ levels of staffing from both groups.
With a turnout of 71.25 per cent and 43,440 (or 98.37 per cent) junior doctors voting to continue industrial action, their re-ballot has renewed their mandate for industrial action for another six months.
Junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the Government: we are not going anywhere. We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the Prime Minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members. Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.
“Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide. There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us. If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if he continues to ignore us. He knows the stakes, he knows our ask, and now he knows our resolve. The Prime Minister faces a profession united in its determination to address pay erosion. Consultants and junior doctors stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity after months of facing the same inflexibility from Government.
“Managing the strikes has already cost the Government in the region of £1 billion, and that figure – which is what it would cost to settle the junior doctors’ dispute – will continue to rise until the Government makes a credible offer to end the strike action. Surely now the Government must understand that it cannot continue down this self-defeating road. We have a mandate for six months more strike action, but they can make it much shorter – even a few days – if the Prime Minister was to simply come to the table.”
BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: “Junior doctors and consultants walk the same wards, look after the same patients in an underfunded and poorly staffed NHS. It is becoming ever clearer that this Government does not value us or our work and nor does it really value patient care.
“If the Government was in any doubt about doctors’ shared determination to reverse the crisis the NHS is in, to help keep the staff we have and address their pay erosion, today will surely dispel it. Never before have NHS consultants and junior doctors been forced to strike together for days on end, but that is where we have been brought by this Government. They must act to address our pay erosion, so that the NHS is able to train the doctors that we currently have, and to ensure that we have enough consultants to train the senior doctors of the future.
“It is only by cooperating with doctors that the Government has a chance of addressing the recruitment and retention crisis the NHS workforce is suffering. Now, facing the prospect of six months’ more action, including days of both junior and consultant walkouts, surely the severity of the situation with doctors’ pay could not be clearer?
“Our message is simple: work with us, negotiate with us both and we can look forward not to months of more walkouts but instead to a bigger, better-valued and more effective medical workforce fit for the future.”
* Source: British Medical Association