The salary demand of 35% of junior doctors “isn’t a high demand,” the union insists

Junior doctor outside Leicester Royal Infirmary - Jacob King/PA/ Jacob King/PA

Junior doctor outside Leicester Royal Infirmary – Jacob King/PA/ Jacob King/PA

Young doctors’ calls for a 35% pay rise are not a ‘high demand’, the British Medical Association (BMA) insisted, as doctors pulled out for the first of a four-day strike.

Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said the union action could be suspended if Steve Barclay, the health secretary, approached the negotiations with a “credible offer”.

The government has said the 35 percent figure is unsustainable.

It comes as doctors across England have begun a four-day strike that threatens to become the most troublesome in the history of the NHS.

NHS England national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the “unprecedented” disruption was likely to last for weeks with hospitals told to reschedule canceled appointments as soon as possible.

Dr Vivek Trivedi told BBC Breakfast: ‘This increase we are calling for is only to reverse the pay cuts we have had, doctors have had their pay cut by more than 26% in real terms over the last 15 years.

“All we are asking is that a doctor who has paid £14 an hour be paid £19 an hour, so it’s not a hard question.

“We offered Mr. Barclay multiple dates to try and meet and he only met us twice, didn’t have a mandate to negotiate once and didn’t even make us an offer the second time,” she said.

In separate remarks, Dr. Trivedi said junior doctors “will reserve the right” to wage more strikes unless the government enters negotiations to end the pay dispute, adding that ministers have not tabled any counter-offers.

Speaking to the AP news agency, he said: “Strikes are by nature designed to be disruptive, to pressure the government to come to the table to work towards an end to this controversy.

“Where we go forward is, of course, to reserve the right for further industrial action if the government doesn’t negotiate with us, but that’s all we want them to do.

“We just want them to come to the table in an honest and meaningfully meaningful way. But obviously if they don’t, we reserve the right for further industrial action.”

An estimated 350,000 appointments, including operations, will be canceled as a result of the BMA members’ strike.

Doctors staged pickets outside hospitals from 7am on Tuesday until Saturday morning in the longest outage of the wave of unrest, which has seen nurses, ambulance crews and other health workers attend since last year.

Young doctors and supporters on a picket line outside University College Hospital - George Cracknell Wright

Young doctors and supporters on a picket line outside University College Hospital – George Cracknell Wright

Executives said patient care was “on edge” because of the strike, while Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, a membership organization representing healthcare bodies in the UK, said the number of canceled appointments, previously suggested to be 250,000, was likely to rise by another 100,000.

The strikes center on a pay dispute between the BMA and the government, with the union saying junior doctors in England have seen a 26% pay cut in real terms since 2008/09 because pay rises have been lower than expected. ‘inflation.

The union has called for the reinstatement of full pay which, according to the government, would amount to a 35% wage increase, which ministers say is unsustainable.

BMA officials said the pay issue was making it more difficult to recruit and retain young doctors, with members having previously retired for three days in March.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis said on Sunday the strikes would put “huge pressure” on staff and services.

NHS England said staff will be asked to prioritize emergency and urgent care over certain routine appointments and procedures to ensure safe care for those in life-threatening situations.

The health body said appointments and operations will only be canceled “where unavoidable” and patients will be offered alternative dates as soon as possible.

Strikes planned for maximum disruption

Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, said: “It is extremely disappointing that the BMA has called a strike for four consecutive days.

“Not only will the strikes put patient safety at risk, they have also been timed to maximize disruption after the Easter holidays.

“I had hoped to enter into formal salary talks with the BMA last month, but your request for a 35% pay rise is unreasonable – it would result in some junior doctors receiving a pay rise of over £20,000.

“If the BMA is willing to move significantly from this position and call off the strikes, we can resume confidential talks and find a way forward, as we have done with other unions.

“People should attend appointments unless instructed otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent healthcare needs.”

The BMA has previously said it was willing to enter talks with Barclay and call off strikes if members were presented with a “credible” pay offer “to resolve 15 years of wage erosion”.

Taylor said the likely impact of the strike was “heartbreaking” and called on both sides to end their “battle of rhetoric”.

Acas needed to unblock the situation

He said there is “no doubt” this strike will be more disruptive than the 72-hour strikes by NHS staff last month, which resulted in 175,000 appointments being cancelled.

Speaking of pay talks that would avoid action, Mr Taylor told the BBC Breakfast on Monday: ‘It is depressing that there has been no movement on either side of this dispute in recent days.

“We should consider asking the government and the unions to call Acas, the conciliation service, to give a basis for the negotiation, because if anything, the positions seem to have hardened in the last two days”.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: “This week’s junior doctors’ strike will cause huge disruptions in patient care.

“Where is the prime minister and why didn’t he try to stop him?

“Rishi Sunak says he ‘wouldn’t want to get in the way’ of NHS pay disputes.

“Patients are clamoring for leadership, but instead they are weakening.”

‘Every opportunity’ to end the dispute

Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We were knocking on the Health Secretary’s door, requesting to meet him to negotiate a settlement to this dispute, long before the ongoing strike began.

“We have been in a formal dispute since October. He refused to respond and meet with us until we got the result of a strike vote. He had months to put a credible offer on the table and avoid industrial action, so for him to say, ‘It’s disappointing,’ is false at best.

“We have always maintained our aim of restoring full pay – to reverse the wage cuts of over 26% in real terms that the Barclay government has imposed on us over the last 15 years, increasing starting wages by just £5 an hour for £19.

“We have always maintained that we are willing to negotiate on how to get pay restored, so for Mr Barclay to suggest that we had prerequisites is once again false.

“The reality is that the Minister of Health has had every opportunity to put an end to the dispute. His decision to refuse to submit a credible offer – in fact he has not submitted a single offer so far – means that this action is due solely to this repeated government inaction.

“We would still be willing to call off the strike this week if the Secretary of State makes a credible offer that could form the basis of negotiations.”

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