Junior doctors are striking for five days from today, marking their longest period of industrial action yet.
From 7am this morning young medics at the British Medical Association (BMA) walked out as they argue for their pay to be raised by about 35%.
They will return to wards on Tuesday.
As strike got underway this morning co-chairs of the junior doctors committee Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said:
“Today marks the start of the longest single walkout by doctors in the NHS’s history – but this is still not a record that needs to go into the history books. We can call this strike off today if the UK Government will simply follow the example of the government in Scotland and drop their nonsensical precondition of not talking whilst strikes are announced and produce an offer which is credible to the doctors they are speaking with.
“The pay offer on the table to junior doctors in Scotland and how it was reached throws into sharp relief the obstinate approach being taken by the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay. The Health Secretary has said there can be no talks while strikes are planned – Scotland has proved him wrong. He said above 5% wasn’t realistic – Scotland proved him wrong. He refused to even acknowledge the concept of pay restoration – Scotland proved this is not only possible but essential.
“We have to get back to talks. The Government’s refusal to talk with junior doctors in England who have strikes planned, is out of keeping with all norms of industrial action. Doctors have a right to expect that as in Scotland, and as in many other recent industrial disputes, talks will continue right up to the last minute to try and reach a deal without the need to strike. The complete inflexibility we see from the UK Government today is baffling, frustrating, and ultimately destructive for everyone who wants waiting lists to go down and NHS staffing numbers to go up.
“The Government has missed chance after chance to provide a credible offer and potentially bring to an end the industrial action by junior doctors in England and whilst there are differences between junior doctors and governments in England and Scotland, the UK Government has far more financial freedom to give doctors what they deserve. We can only hope the Prime Minster and Health Secretary now take a moment to reassess their entrenched position and come to the table with a realistic and credible offer that we can put to our members in England.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents trusts, said patients would feel the impact.
He said: “The continuous period of industrial action is really damaging for the NHS in terms of first and foremost patients, but also cost.
“The last junior doctors strike cost the NHS in terms of direct cost around a £100m, and then of course there’s the impact on progress towards delivering waiting list reduction, so this is really difficult and challenging, and we do need urgently a resolution to this industrial action.”