The health secretary has invited junior doctors for pay talks in an attempt to avert next week’s three-day strike in England.
Junior doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA) are due to walk out for 72 hours on Monday – and thousands of people were expected at a protest in London on Saturday in support of NHS strikes.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay tweeted on Friday night: “I’ve written to @BMA_JuniorDocs inviting them for formal pay talks on the same basis other health unions accepted, including calling off next week’s strike.
“Let’s have a constructive dialogue to make the NHS a better place to work and ensure we deliver the care patients need.”
However, the BMA junior doctors faction noted that the health secretary did not attend talks on Friday.
Responding to his tweet, the @BMA_JuniorDocs account posted: “Just a reminder that we had a meeting today which @SteveBarclay failed to attend…
“Without any credible negotiations we have no choice but to strike on Monday and continue our fight for #PayRestoration.”
More than 98% of junior doctors voted to take industrial action in the BMA ballot over pay and conditions.
The unions says that while workload and waiting lists are at record highs, pay for junior doctors has been cut “by more than a quarter since 2008”.
But the government says pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20 and further wage increases aren’t affordable at a time of record-high inflation.
Emergency care will be prioritised and thousands of routine appointments postponed if the strikes go ahead.
The three-day action is scheduled for all trusts in England and would be the longest continuous period of walkouts to hit the health service in recent months, following strikes by nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists.
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There are around 61,000 junior doctors and they make up half of the health service’s medical workforce.
As a result, emergency, critical and maternity care will be prioritised, as well as patients who have waited the longest for elective care and cancer surgery where possible.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, medical director of the NHS, said they had been working “incredibly hard to mitigate the impact of this strike”.
He urged the public should use 111 online and local services such as GPs and pharmacies as “first points of call” in non-urgent cases.
The NHS Confederation, which represents trusts across the country, has urged both sides to “show willingness to compromise and bring these strikes to an end without delay”.
It said health leaders are “preparing for the absolute worst” with some taking down 50% of their planned theatre activity and others are opting for 100%.
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