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PA & Sonia Sharma

Junior doctors to go on strike for three days in March over pay dispute

Junior doctors in England are to go on strike for three days next month in a dispute over pay.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the doctors had "no option" and would strike from March 13, having voted in favour of industrial action earlier this month. The BMA said junior doctors had called on Health Secretary Steve Barclay twice in the past week to meet with them urgently, but added that no date had been set.

A meeting with Department of Health civil servants earlier this week yielded nothing in terms of meaningful progress, said the BMA. The co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors' committee, Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, said patients and public alike need to know the blame for the strike action "lies squarely at the Government's door".

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They said: "Make no mistake, this strike was absolutely in the Government's gift to avert; they know it, we know it and our patients also need to know it. We have tried, since last summer, to get each Health Secretary we have had round the negotiating table.

"We have written many times and, even as late as yesterday, we were hopeful Steve Barclay would recognise the need to meet with us to find a workable solution that could have averted this strike. We have not been told why we have not been offered intensive negotiations nor what we need to do for the Government to begin negotiations with us. We are left with no option but to proceed with this action.

"The fact that so many junior doctors in England have voted yes for strike action should leave ministers in absolutely no doubt what we have known for a long time and have been trying to tell them, we are demoralised, angry and no longer willing to work for wages that have seen a real terms decline of over 26% in the past 15 years."

Downing Street has said the decision of junior doctors to stage a three-day strike is "disappointing" and urged the BMA to return to the negotiating table. A No 10 spokesman said that junior doctors had received an 8.2% pay increase since 2019-20.

"We hugely value the work of junior doctors around the country and it is disappointing that they have taken the decision to engage in this strike action," the spokesman said. "The Health Secretary (Steve Barclay) met recently with the BMA to discuss what is fair and affordable, and we would encourage the unions to continue with dialogue rather than strike action.

"We are continuing to talk with unions but that is obviously conditional that they don't take strike action."

Miriam Deakin, director of policy at NHS Providers, said: "Trust leaders are deeply concerned by the details of the BMA junior doctors' 72-hour strike next month. The possibility of a full stoppage of work by striking junior doctors in this period, including nights and on-call shifts, will have significant ramifications for patient care.

"The effects will also be compounded by the HCSA junior doctors' strike and hot on the heels of walkouts by ambulance workers. This unprecedented scale of industrial action in the NHS threatens to cause serious disruption to patients, which is the last thing anyone wants. It will also likely hamper the hard efforts of NHS staff to tackle backlogs and meet elective targets.

"We understand junior doctors feel they've been pushed to this point by factors including below-inflation pay uplifts and the vast workforce shortages. As ever, trust leaders will be working flat out to ensure disruption is minimised on strike dates, but they desperately need action on a national level to bring this to an end.

"We're encouraged by the Government opening talks with the RCN on pay, but it's clear these negotiations need to take place immediately and with all other striking unions."

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