Junior doctors begin 144-hour walkout in demand for 35% pay rise | Politics | News | Express.co.uk
The British Medical Association called a 144 hour walkout in its demand for a 35% pay hike.
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Up to half of the medical workforce is predicted to be out on picket lines during the 6 day walkout (Image: Getty)
Junior doctors were accused of an “act of cruelty” as they on Wednesday begin the longest strike in NHS history.
The British Medical Association called a 144 hour walkout in its demand for a 35% pay hike.
Junior doctors who have finished their medical degree continue their training as foundation year medics in hospitals, earning £32,397 in the first year and £37,303 in the following 12 months.
Once they become speciality trainees they earn a basic salary of between £43,922 and £63,152.
It has left patients facing a new year nightmare as operations are cancelled up and down the country.
Conservative MP Paul Bristow, a member of the health select committee, said: “Junior doctors can’t keep holding the country to ransom.
“It is an act of cruelty to make patients pay the price for their exorbitant pay demands.”
The industrial action is set to run until 7am on Tuesday January 9 and comes as the NHS faces high demand from winter viruses and a rise in people coming forward who delayed seeking help over the holidays.
Up to half of the medical workforce is predicted to be out on picket lines during the six day walkout.
Health chiefs warned the industrial action risks causing “the most difficult start to the year the NHS has ever faced”.
Emergency and urgent treatment will be prioritised during the strikes and almost all routine care will be affected.
Steve Brine, chairman of the Health Select Committee and co-presenter of the Prevention is the New Cure podcast, said: “The losers in this will be patients – some missing vital cancer treatment – and the staff who are working holding it together over the next six days.
No Government, Conservative or Labour, is ever going to agree to a 35% pay rise. “Ultimately the BMA trade union is going to have to climb down or stay on indefinite strike and I think we all know what public opinion will make of that.”
NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said the “unprecedented” action will lead to delays in care for thousands of patients and “couldn’t come at a worse time”.
Chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said: “The longest-ever strike in NHS history will mean many more thousands of patients face delays and disruption.
“With the NHS in the grip of peak winter pressure throughout the system, this week’s strike by junior doctors couldn’t come at a worse time.”
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, warned the strike will “continue to have a serious impact” for weeks to come.
He said: “This January could be one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced.
“Six consecutive days of industrial action comes at one of our busiest periods – the action will not only have an enormous impact on planned care, but comes on top of a host of seasonal pressures such as Covid, flu, and staff absences due to sickness – all of which is impacting on how patients flow through hospitals.”
Age UK warned the actions could put elderly people off from seeking care when they need it.
Chief executive Paul Farmer said: “We are deeply concerned about the risk this poses to older people’s health as, with the very best will in the world and efforts of staff, it will be difficult to guarantee safe and effective care for everyone who needs it.
“At Age UK we are also very concerned that older people who may be feeling unwell but are put off seeking the care they need due to the strikes.
“We have increasingly heard from older people, already struggling to access the help they need, now worried what ongoing strikes mean for themselves and their families on top.”
Downing Street warned the strikes will have a “significant impact” and pointed out 88,000 appointments had to be rescheduled during the last round of action.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have sought to come to a fair resolution, fair for the taxpayer, fair for hard-working doctors and health workers. We have achieved that in the majority of cases.
“As the Health and Care Secretary made clear, we are willing to have further discussions, but obviously the first thing to do is to stop striking.”
Junior doctors in England were given an average rise of 8.8% last summer but medics said the increase was not enough and ramped up strike efforts.
Five weeks of negotiations late last year broke down and doctors called more strikes.
Junior doctors from the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union will also walk out.
BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi issued a statement defending the action.
They said: “This strike marks another unhappy record for the NHS – the longest single walkout in its history.
“But as we have said all along, there is no need for any records to fall: we can call off this strike now if we get an offer from Government that we can put to members.
“Doctors want 2024 to be the start of a renewed workforce which can finally provide high quality care for patients again – it is for the Government to put forward a credible offer and facilitate that journey.”
Instead of socialising with friends and family, this year I spent some of the countdown to Christmas working in hospital, covering for junior doctors who’ve chosen to strike rather than negotiate with the Government.
And later this week I’ll be back on the ward doing it all over again.
Being a consultant paediatrician, as well as a Member of Parliament, is an incredibly rewarding job.
But this latest round of strike action made it clear to me that the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ Committee doesn’t share the values the rest of the medical community holds dear.
This is one of the busiest times of the year for our health service, the start of weeks of sustained pressure over winter.
Yet the BMA are urging their members to down tools during these testing times not once, but twice.
I have been a junior doctor. It means I understand it is a demanding job and I understand the challenges they face. But to go on strike flies in the face of the duty of care they have to the public.
More than one million appointments have already been cancelled or rescheduled because of strike action. Behind each of these is a patient who will suffer needlessly.
The child with persistent headaches who is missing school and whose outpatient appointment has to be rescheduled. The self-employed builder who must wait longer for their shoulder operation. The teacher now faces an anxious wait for the results of their cancer check-up.
Many junior doctors recognise this and are working through the strikes to care for their patients and I am grateful for their courage and humanity.
However, where junior doctors do strike this will cause harm to patients. Therefore the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ Committee’s decision to inflict this suffering in pursuit of higher pay is, for me, morally indefensible.
And they are becoming increasingly isolated. The government has now reached agreements with every other part of the public sector, including consultants and specialist doctors where the membership is voting on proposed deals.
But junior doctors have continued to walk out despite receiving average pay rises of nearly 9% last year, the highest increase across the entire public sector.
And dramatic changes in working practices have benefitted junior doctors over the past decade.
When I was a junior doctor, we worked exceptionally long shifts – some were 24 hours or more.
Now junior doctors cannot legally work for more than 13 hours in a day.
Junior doctors’ starting salaries are also significantly higher than the average worker, they have a clear path to career and pay progression and they can boost their earnings through overtime.
We all value and need the lifesaving work junior doctors do. That is why it is so disappointing that the BMA is pursuing strike action before the Government has made its final offer.
The Government has been clear that it would get back around the negotiation table if strikes are called off.
The Health and Social Care Secretary has said she is confident there is a deal to be done. One which improves junior doctors’ pay and working conditions but that is also fair to taxpayers and other public sector workers.
So my message to the BMA is simple.
Stop the strikes, get around the table, and come to an agreement that’s fair for doctors, patients and taxpayers.
Dr Caroline Johnson is the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “January is typically the busiest time of the year for the NHS and these strikes will have a serious impact on patients across the country. Over 1.2 million appointments have already been rescheduled since industrial action began, including over 88,000 during last month’s strikes.
“The NHS has again put in place robust contingency plans to protect patient safety and it is vital anyone who needs medical help continues to come forward.
“I urge the BMA Junior Doctors Committee to call off their strikes and come back to the negotiating table so we can find a fair and reasonable solution to end the strikes once and for all.”
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