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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Martin Bagot

Steve Barclay to meet doctors in desperate attempt to avert huge NHS strike

Doctors will meet with Steve Barclay tomorrow in an effort to avert an unprecedented NHS strike.

The British Medical Association has been granted the first face to face meeting of any NHS trade union since the Health Secretary opened pay talks with the Royal College of Nurses.

It is not known whether he will open similar talks about pay for 2022/23 during the planned meeting in Westminster at 10am or again refuse to talk about improved salaries for junior doctors.

Mr Barclay’s talks with nurses have angered other NHS unions which have so far been locked out of genuine pay discussions.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chair Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “In just 10 days’ time junior doctors across England will walk out for 72 hours after the Government has failed to engage with us on reversing more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

“This meeting is an opportunity for the Secretary of State to avert these strikes and act to retain junior doctors and protect the future of the NHS and the care it offers patients.”

The BMA ballot saw an unprecedented 98% vote for strike action in a huge escalation of the pay dispute.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is under intense pressure to bring the crisis to a close (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The result grants the right to strike to 47,600 junior doctors and is expected to lead to cancellation of hundreds of thousands more operations.

If it goes ahead from March 13 it will be the first time junior doctors have gone on a three-day strike and the first time emergency cover was not provided.

Junior doctors are on a different pay contract to most NHS staff and are in the middle of a multi-year deal.

They can typically remain ‘junior’ for 8-20 years, and this may be extended by doing research towards a higher degree. There are around 80,000 junior doctors in the NHS.

The BMA says junior doctors, who start on salaries of between £25,000 and £30,000, have seen real terms pay cut by 26.1% since 2008/09.

The Government has put junior doctors on a multi-year contract lasting from 2019 to 2023, separate to the rest of the NHS workforce.

It insists over the course of this contract junior doctors will have seen a 8.2% uplift, before inflation.

It is the latest in a wave of unprecedented strikes to be announced across the NHS (PA)

So far it has insisted that the end of this contract will be the “appropriate time” to discuss pay.

However the BMA says the latest 2023 uplift is just 2% -at a time when annual inflation is currently 10.7%.

It comes after the smaller union the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) saw doctors vote to strike.

Industrial action has already led to more than 57,000 rescheduled operations and appointments.

Junior doctors went on strike in 2016 after then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt imposed contract changes that altered their working conditions.

This escalated into a bitter dispute but included only four single-day strikes. Only one of these saw emergency care also withdrawn as well as routine care.

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