Health & Lifestyle

More NHS strike misery on the way: Both junior doctors and consultants will hold four days of united industrial action from September

Junior doctors and consultants will undertake four days of crippling joint strike action this autumn.

British Medical Association (BMA) bosses announced the coordinated walkout will take place in England over separate days in both September and October.

It represents a huge escalation in the long-running dispute between the union and ministers over NHS pay and the first time both consultants and junior doctors will strike together, a first in health service history. 

The BMA is demanding inflation-busting pay rises for its members.

Junior doctors have already staged 19 days of strike action since March, with consultants taking to the picket lines on four separate days. 

British Medical Association (BMA) bosses announced the coordinated walkout will take place in England over separate days in September and October. It represents a huge escalation of the never-ending dispute between the union and ministers over pay in the health service. Pictured: Medics on the picket line in July this year

British Medical Association (BMA) bosses announced the coordinated walkout will take place in England over separate days in September and October. It represents a huge escalation of the never-ending dispute between the union and ministers over pay in the health service. Pictured: Medics on the picket line in July this year

Patients can expect only a ‘Christmas Day’ level of staffing from both groups across the four days in September and October.

Consultants in England will be striking on September 19 and 20, with junior doctors then joining the strike on September 20.

Junior doctors will then continue the full walkout on September 21 and 22.

Both consultants and junior doctors will then return to the picket lines together on October, 2, 3 and 4. 

The announcement came after junior doctors renewed their mandate for industrial action for another six months.

Just over 71 per cent of eligible BMA members voted with 43,440 (98 per cent) voting to continue the industrial action.

Union officials said the result should send be a warning Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, that he has ‘nowhere to hide’. 

Junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the Government: we are not going anywhere. 

‘We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the Prime Minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members. 

‘Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.

‘Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide. There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us.’

They also threatened a never-ending series of strikes unless the Government committed to negotiations.  

‘If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if he continues to ignore us,’ they said. 

They added: ‘He knows the stakes, he knows our ask, and now he knows our resolve. 

‘The Prime Minister faces a profession united in its determination to address pay erosion. 

‘Consultants and junior doctors stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity after months of facing the same inflexibility from Government.’

Meanwhile, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: ‘Junior doctors and consultants walk the same wards, look after the same patients in an underfunded and poorly staffed NHS. 

‘It is becoming ever clearer that this Government does not value us or our work and nor does it really value patient care.

‘If the Government was in any doubt about doctors’ shared determination to reverse the crisis the NHS is in, to help keep the staff we have and address their pay erosion, today will surely dispel it.’ 

He added: ‘Never before have NHS consultants and junior doctors been forced to strike together for days on end, but that is where we have been brought by this Government. 

‘They must act to address our pay erosion, so that the NHS is able to train the doctors that we currently have, and to ensure that we have enough consultants to train the senior doctors of the future.’

‘It is only by cooperating with doctors that the Government has a chance of addressing the recruitment and retention crisis the NHS workforce is suffering. 

‘Now, facing the prospect of six months’ more action, including days of both junior and consultant walkouts, surely the severity of the situation with doctors’ pay could not be clearer?

‘Our message is simple: work with us, negotiate with us both and we can look forward not to months of more walkouts but instead to a bigger, better-valued and more effective medical workforce fit for the future.’

Mr Barclay described the union’s latest announcement as ‘extremely disappointing’ adding: ‘I know it will weigh heavily on the minds of their NHS colleagues and patients – both of whom are shouldering the brunt of the BMA’s relentless and now co-ordinated strike action.

‘My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives, but this pay award is final so I urge the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption.’

The action comes despite junior doctors and consultants being given a six per cent pay rise under No. 10’s pay offer.

At the time, Rishi Sunak said the deal, announced last month for 2023/24, was the Government’s ‘final offer’. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has also said there will be ‘no more negotiations on pay’. 

Nurses, paramedics and other NHS staff received a five per cent rise and ‘NHS backlog bonus’.

The BMA however immediately rejected the rise, vowing to crack on with strike action. 

Its original wave of junior doctor strike action was sparked by an ‘insulting’ two per cent offer for the previous year. 

The union claims junior doctors and consultants have experienced a ’35 per cent pay erosion’ over the last 14 years. 

Some 45,827 hospital appointments in England were rescheduled due to a two-day walkout by consultants last week. 

It means 885,154 appointments have been postponed since NHS industrial action — which has involved staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics — kicked-off in December.

If all community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to more than 940,000 — though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.

NHS leaders have also said the real impact of strikes is masked by the data, as many hospitals have stopped booking in surgeries and other appointments on announced strike days. 

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full-time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full-time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)

Analysis by the Nuffield trust found NHS consultants in England were among the top earners in the profession globally

Analysis by the Nuffield trust found NHS consultants in England were among the top earners in the profession globally

Responding to the BMA’s announcement, Sir Julian Harley, chief executive at NHS Providers said: ‘The announcement of coordinated strike action is a serious escalation in the doctors’ industrial dispute. 

‘We now face the grim prospect of another six months of walkouts from junior doctors, which will pile even more pressure on the NHS this winter, causing yet more disruption for patients. 

‘Most worryingly of all, we are now seeing coordination of strike action from doctors for the first time. 

He added: ‘This is going to be an unprecedented challenge for the health service. 

‘Trust leaders understand doctors’ reasons for striking, but patients are paying the price. 

‘Nearly one million appointments have already been pushed back since industrial action started in December. 

‘This number grows with every strike, further delaying care and jeopardising vital work to bear down on backlogs, including the government’s key pledge to cut the waiting list.’

England's backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, official figures revealed. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony

England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, official figures revealed. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony

He said: ‘Staff morale – already at a low – will likely now take another big hit. Industrial action is also putting a huge strain on stretched NHS budgets, costing an estimated £1billion so far through lost income and hiring expensive cover. 

‘Today’s vote must be a wake-up call for both sides of the dispute to sit down together, talk, and agree on a resolution.’ 

Latest official data shows England’s backlog for NHS procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million.

It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. 

More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated. 

Rishi Sunak made cutting waiting lists one of his 2023 priorities, pledging in January that ‘lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly’.

However, he has acknowledged that strikes across the health service are making the task ‘more challenging’.

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