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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Daniel Keane

Junior doctors strike to go ahead after talks with Government fail

A strike by junior doctors will go ahead later this month after a union described a meeting with Health Secretary Steve Barclay as “disappointing”.

The British Medical Association said that talks with the Cabinet minister were “just a façade”, claiming that Mr Barclay had not been given a mandate to negotiate a pay rise.

Members of the BMA are set to walk out for 72 hours from March 13 in a dispute over pay. It comes amid ongoing strikes by paramedics and physiotherapists, though nursing strikes have been paused while the Royal College of Nursing holds “intensive” talks over pay with the Government.

Co-chairs of the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors’ committee Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trevedi, called Mr Barclay a “professional delayer” after talks at the Department of Health broke down on Thursday afternoon.

Dr Laurenson said: “We came here with a mandate and he turned up without one, there was never any real prospect of any real negotiation or offer – it was just a facade.”

With 11 days to go until the 72-hour walkout, he claimed that Mr Barclay did not offer any sort of time frame for negotiations.

He added: “The Government aren’t taking us seriously.

“I don’t understand how the Government can look at a mandate that’s one of the strongest industrial mandates in history and essentially not have any preparations made or anything to put on the table.”

Co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee Vivek Trivedi (left) and Rob Laurenson speak to media at the Department of Health (PA)

Dr Laurenson said that BMA members would call off strike action if the Government offered a “meaningful” pay rise.

“You’ve got paramedics, nurses, physiotherapists and doctors all coming to the same moral calculation. This is not some sort of money grab, this is about making sure that we can fix the workforce crisis that is all across the NHS and pay is a fundamental aspect of that.”

Meanwhile, other health unions are considering an invitation from the Government to enter formal pay talks through the NHS staff council.

Sara Gorton, who is chairwoman of the union group on the NHS staff council and Unison’s head of health, said: “Health unions will need to clarify the basis upon which talks can get under way through the NHS staff council.

“This includes understanding the status of the unilateral talks that have taken place with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "Healthcare leaders will welcome the news that the government has offered to open talks with all unions involved in the strikes.

"We have been calling for the government time and again to open negotiations with all unions and this is a very positive step in the right direction.

"We would hope that all trade unions representing healthcare professionals across the NHS accept this olive branch from the government and are prepared to come to the table with the aim of reaching a compromise with the government as quickly as possible."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary met with the BMA today to discuss pay, career progression and working conditions.

“He reiterated the government is happy to continue discussing what is fair and affordable, recognising the vital role junior doctors play and the wider economic pressures facing the UK.”

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