Health secretary accuses union of ‘militant stance’ in row over junior doctors’ pay

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay has accused the union of taking a “militant approach” to junior doctors’ pay talks as medics prepare to strike for four days next week.

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Mr Barclay described the pay demands by the British Medical Association (BMA) as “unrealistic” at a time when the country faced “immense” economic pressures and sky-high inflation.

Around 50,000 junior doctors are due to walk out between 6.59am on 11 April and 6.59am on 15 April in what threatens to be one of the most disruptive strikes in the history of the NHS.

The Medical Director of the Health Service, Professor Stephen Powis, warned he was “very concerned” about the attacks, which he said would cause “unparalleled levels of disruption”.

The BMA, which represents junior doctors, has said it will stop action if the health secretary puts a “credible offer on the table”.

The junior doctors have demanded a 35 per cent pay hike, which they described as a below-inflation pay hike in 15 years.

Health Secretary Steve Barkley (PA)

(PA Wire)

In their dispute with the government, nurses in England initially demanded inflation-beating increases of 17.5 percent before settling for double pay this year and a 5 percent increase next year.

i am writing The Sunday TelegraphMr Barclay blamed the BMA for the breakdown of talks between the two parties, saying the union’s demands had stalled “serious negotiations over pay”.

Mr Barclay said he “values ​​the vital work these doctors do every day” but their pay demand was “widely out of step with pay settlements in other parts of the public sector at a time of great economic strain on our country”. “.

He said: “Sadly, the decision by BMA junior doctors’ leaders to maintain an unrealistic position meant that we were unable to make progress with negotiations.

“It appears that they are intent on maintaining a militant stance rather than working with the government and NHS management to meet the best interests of their members and patients.”

He claimed that a pay rise of this size would give some junior doctors an extra £20,000 a year.

NHS junior doctors on strike picket outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in March (Jacob King/PA)

(PA Wire)

Next week’s strike is taking place shortly after the Easter bank holiday weekend – a move the health secretary said was “timed to cause maximum disruption”.

Some hospitals face almost 100 hours without up to half of their medical staff, while more than a million appointments and operations may be postponed.

“The next round of attacks will see unprecedented levels of disruption, and we are very concerned about the potential severity of the impact on patients and services across the country,” Professor Powis said.

“This time the action comes immediately after the four-day bank holiday weekend, which is already tough as many staff are taking much-needed leave, and it will be more widespread than ever, with hospitals being forced to close for almost half an hour without Will have to face 100 hours.” NHS Medical Taskforce.

He said the NHS would continue to prioritize emergency, critical and neonatal care, as well as maternity and trauma services, but would inevitably need to postpone hundreds of thousands of appointments again, including cancer care.

Speaking to Sky News on Easter Sunday, Professor Powis said he had asked hospitals to contact in advance patients whose appointments would be canceled or rescheduled.

“If you haven’t been contacted please come along as usual as we will continue with some services despite the widespread cancellations,” he said.

Asked if he was concerned patients would be at risk next week, Professor Powis said: “Our aim is to make sure that doesn’t happen. That’s why we are prioritizing those emergency services.

“We are working closely with consultants and of course we will speak to the BMA over four days as we did during the three days of industrial action a few weeks ago. If we see services that we feel are unsafe If they are happening, we will not hesitate to raise concerns with the BMA.”

Dr Layla McKay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said the figure could be as many as 250,000 postponed appointments and operations and health officials were more concerned about the impact of this latest walkout than any other strike so far amid fears over patient safety. were more concerned about. ,

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the last strike by junior doctors we saw around 175,000 appointments and operations had to be postponed.

“In terms of the disruption we’re anticipating at this point in time, we believe it could be up to a quarter of a million, so it’s a massive amount of impact for patients up and down the country.”

He added: “What we’re hearing from our members who are health leaders across the system, they are more concerned about this than they are about another strike.

“They think the impact is going to be significant enough that it’s likely to have an impact on patient safety and that’s a huge concern for every healthcare leader.”

Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-director of the junior doctors’ committee at the BMA, said on Saturday that Mr Barclay was yet to make a serious offer.

“What we’re asking for is a credible proposal that shows us that he is serious, that we can begin a path of negotiation to address real terms wage cuts,” he said.

Dr Mike Greenhalgh, deputy co-chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, told BBC One’s Breakfast Show: “It’s hard to negotiate when only one side is doing it and we’re not getting anything back from the government on that front Is.”

He added: “We are happy to meet anytime. We will still be meeting them over the bank holiday weekend before industrial action next week.

“And if he were to bring a credible proposal to us, it could prevent action even at this late stage.”

Dr Greenhalgh apologized to patients whose operations or appointments were canceled and stressed that patient safety would not be put at risk.

Health secretary accuses union of ‘militant stance’ in row over junior doctors’ pay

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