Junior doctors have started the longest walkout in the NHS’s history over pay which will cause enormous disruption for operations and consultations.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England mounted picket lines outside hospitals from 7am.
British Medical Association (BMA) are urging the government to come back to the table to resume negotiations to end the long running row over pay.
BMA leaders 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.”
he BMA leaders said talks have to be resumed, adding: “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.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is disappointing that the BMA is going ahead with further strike action. This five-day walkout by junior doctors will have an impact on thousands of patients, put patient safety at risk and hamper efforts to cut NHS waiting lists.
“We were in discussions about pay and a range of other measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors until their representatives collapsed the negotiations by announcing further strikes. A pay demand of 35% or more is unreasonable and risks fuelling inflation, which makes everyone poorer.
“Earlier this week I held a round table with doctors in training to talk about other key issues that affect them so we can work together to make the NHS a better place for all. We recently published the first ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan which includes measures to better support staff, improve training and double the number of medical school places by 2031.
“If the BMA shows willingness to move significantly from their current pay demands and cancels these damaging and disruptive strikes, we can get around the table to find a fair deal to resolve this dispute.”