There are grave fears that many lives will be “needlessly” lost this week as junior doctors are striking for four days which will cause chaos for the NHS.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) have estimated that 350,000 appointments and operations will be cancelled due to the strike.
Dr Sumi Manirajan, deputy co-chair of the junior doctor committee at the BMA has warned on Sky News on Tuesday morning that she “”can’t guarantee that no lives will put at risk this week – but that’s because lives are being put at risk every single week.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said, “It is extremely disappointing the BMA has called strike action for four consecutive days.
“Not only will the walkouts risk patient safety, but they have also been timed to maximise disruption after the Easter break.
“I hoped to begin formal pay negotiations with the BMA last month but its demand 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 cancel strikes we can resume confidential talks and find a way forward, as we have done with other unions.
“People should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs.”
BMA junior doctor committee co-chairman Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We were knocking on the Health Secretary’s door, asking to meet with him to negotiate a settlement to this dispute, long before the current strike got underway.
“We have been in a formal dispute since October. He refused to respond and meet us until we had a strike ballot result. He has had months to put a credible offer on the table and avert industrial action, so for him to say, ‘It’s disappointing,’ is at best disingenuous.
“We have always maintained our aim is for full pay restoration – to reverse the more than 26% real-terms pay cuts Mr Barclay’s Government have imposed on us over the past 15 years, putting starting salaries up by just £5 per hour to £19.
“We have always maintained we are willing to negotiate on how to achieve pay restoration, so for Mr Barclay to suggest we had any preconditions is yet again disingenuous.
“The reality is that the Health Secretary has had every opportunity to bring an end to the dispute. His decision to refuse to table a credible offer – indeed he has not tabled a single offer so far – means that this action is solely due to this Government’s repeated inaction.
“We would still be willing to suspend strike action this week if the Secretary of State makes a credible offer that can be the basis of negotiation.”