Medics to walk out from Feb 24 to Feb 28 after Health Secretary 'declined' talks
: Geoff Pugh
Junior doctors will strike for five days at the end of February, the British Medical Association (BMA) has announced.
The doctors’ union said its latest walkout would begin on Feb 24 and run through until the end of Feb 28.
The BMA accused the Government of moving at “glacial speed” to reach a deal and claimed Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, had refused “an act of good faith” to extend talks.
In a statement, the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee co-chairmen Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Even yesterday we were willing to delay further strike action in exchange for a short extension of our current strike mandate.
“Had the Health Secretary agreed to this, an act of good faith on both sides, talks could have gone ahead without more strikes. Sadly, the Government declined.
They added: “The glacial speed of progress with the Government is frustrating and incomprehensible. The Health Secretary was quite clear in media interviews during our last action that she would meet us ‘in 20 minutes’ when no strikes were planned.
“It turned out to be more than 20 days before we were offered a meeting with a minister. When we did it wasn’t with the Health Secretary, and there was no offer on the table.
“The Government’s actions are difficult to understand, especially when their own MPs are telling the Chancellor to pay junior doctors more fairly. Whatever the holdup, from whomever it is coming, it needs to end now.”
Ms Atkins said the latest call for action “does not signal that they are ready to be reasonable”.
She said: “We already provided them with a pay increase of up to 10.3 per cent and were prepared to go further. We urged them to put an offer to their members, but they refused. We are also open to further discussions on improving doctors’ and the wider workforce’s working lives.
“I want to focus on cutting waiting times for patients rather than industrial action. We have been making progress with waiting lists falling for three months in a row.
“Five days of action will put enormous pressure on the NHS and is not in the spirit of constructive dialogue. To make progress I ask the junior doctors’ committee to cancel their action and come back to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS.”
Medics demand 35pc pay rise
Junior doctors walked out for six days at the start of Januarythe longest strike in NHS history.
NHS stats published yesterday revealed that the walkout coincided with the second worst A&E waits on record as 158,721 people were forced to wait more than 4 hours to be admitted to hospital in January.
More than 54,000 people were forced to wait on trolleys for more than 12 hours as the NHS emergency departments endured their busiest January on record amid the strikes, cancelled appointments, and winter pressures.
The junior doctors are demanding a pay rise of 35 per cent but will accept the “pay restoration” over several years.
The medics received an average pay rise of 8.8 per cent this year, with those in their first year of training receiving a 10.3 per cent increase.
The Government has repeatedly said that a further pay rise is off the table.
Strikes cause cancellation of 1.3m appointments
NHS officials have said that the strikes have caused around 1.3 million appointments to be cancelled and many more not to be scheduled in the first place.
Julian Kelly, the NHS chief financial officer, said strike action had cost the NHS around £3 billion between paying other staff to cover junior doctors, logistical planning and lost ground on tackling the 7.6 million waiting list.
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