Unions and Government urged to redouble efforts and end doctors’ dispute

Unions representing medics and the Government have been urged to double down on efforts to resolve their pay dispute ahead of another junior doctors strike.

It comes amid warnings that ongoing industrial action is “rapidly draining staff morale” across the health service.

Junior doctors in England are set to walk out from 7am on Saturday February 24 until February 28.

Industrial strike
Junior doctors in Wales have been on strike since Wednesday and will return to work on Saturday, when their colleagues in England are due to go on strike (George Thompson/PA)

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, warned that “every strike sends shockwaves” through the health service and impacts staff and patients “with little time to recover in between”.

He added: “Trust leaders have put plans in place to keep patients safe but they are dreading another walkout from junior doctors.”

“It’s vital that both sides of the dispute, the Government and the unions, now redouble their efforts to find a resolution,” Sir Julian said.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has said she wants to “find a reasonable solution that ends strike action” but the walkout called by the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee “does not signal that they are ready to be reasonable”.

According to Ms Atkins, the Government has provided junior doctors with a pay hike of up to 10.3% and “were prepared to go further”.

Strikes have been ongoing in the NHS since December 2022 and have impacted more than 1.4 million appointments and procedures.

In January, consultants in England also narrowly rejected a pay offer from the Government.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins (Aaron Chown/PA)
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has said she wants to find a solution, but added that the upcoming walkout ‘does not signal’ the BMA are ‘ready to be reasonable’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

“Trust leaders tell us that this prolonged industrial dispute is rapidly draining staff morale, the lifeblood of the NHS. They are pulling out all the stops to bear down on care backlogs but these walkouts are making this a near-impossible task.

“What’s more, strikes have cost the NHS an estimated £3bn so far, piling on financial pressure at a time when trusts can least afford it.

“For the sake of patient safety, we urge that any derogation requests – made by trust-based medical directors, who are senior clinicians acting in good faith – be escalated in a timely way so that trusts can prepare and respond proportionately and effectively to what can be very difficult circumstances.”

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