Junior doctors join NHS consultants on strike in England

The first coordinated strike by both groups in the 75-year history of the NHS will see junior doctors join consultants, marking a dramatic increase in their dispute with government over pay.

The first mass walkout, which was branded as “callous” and “calculated” by Stephen Barclay (health secretary), will take place September 20. This will be followed by a 3-day strike from October 2 to 4 during the annual Conservative Party conference.

The BMA, or doctors’ union, , saidthat its members would only provide an emergency “Christmas Day service” over the four-day period, while both groups also planned separate industrial actions.

The union announced a coordinated move after junior doctors, who had been on strike since March, voted by 98 percent in favor of continuing the action. Last week, the consultants had announced dates for their October strikes.

This will undermine Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s hopes to call the next general elections — which are expected next year. The waiting lists for NHS services have fallen from their record high of 7,6mn.

Julian Hartley, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health organizations in England, described the mass walkout as “an unprecedented challenge”. He noted that in addition to the joint action, junior doctors and consultants were planning to walk out between September 21-23.

Since the wave of industrial actions in the NHS began in December, when nurses who are now settled walked out, he said that nearly 1mn appointment had been delayed.

Barclay called the junior doctors’ renewed mandate for strike action “extremely disappointed”. He said that it would “weigh heavy on the minds” of both NHS colleagues and the patients, who are bearing the brunt of BMA’s relentless strike action.

The government accepted the recommendation of the independent pay review panel for a 6% increase, plus an additional payment consolidated in base pay of £1,250. Junior doctors had demanded a 35% increase.

The co-chairs of the Junior Doctors Committee, Dr Rob Laurenson, and Dr VivekTrivedi, urged Sunak intervene. “The Prime Minister has the ability to stop any further action if he makes us a credible proposal that we can present to our members. It is not a good idea to refuse to negotiate with us or our consultant colleagues.

Barclay stated that his door is “always opened to discuss how we can collaborate with NHS staff to enhance their working life”. Barclay has refused to talk about pay. He insists that the award of the review body is final.

Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation described the joint action by NHS leaders as “the nightmare they have long feared”. He said that the joint action was “a step to far” and would cause delays and stress for patients.

Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary, said: “The failure by the Prime Minister and his Health Secretary to sit down and speak to doctors has led to the most serious strike action yet.”