The health secretary failed to avert junior doctor strike action in a meeting today, telling the BMA he had ‘no authority’ or ‘green light’ to renegotiate pay.
Leaders of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee said they are ‘frustrated’ and ‘hugely disappointed’ by Steve Barclay’s admission, which came during a meeting today where they had hoped an offer on the pay deal would be on the table.
Last week the union announced the 72-hour walkout, which will take place from 13 March, after more than 36,200 doctors voted in favour of strikes.
The BMA said that over the past 15 years, junior doctors have seen their pay erode by more than 26% with newly qualified doctors starting on £14 per hour and that restoring pay would mean increasing that £14 to just £19.
In a joint statement, Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, who co-chair the committee, said: ‘It is beyond belief that the person in Government appointed to look after our health service, and the staff in it, has no power to put any kind of deal on the table.
‘We went to today’s meeting with every intention of entering into negotiations with a health secretary who has known from day one of his tenure what was at stake – tens of thousands of junior doctors in England who are demoralised, exhausted, and vastly underpaid for the valuable work they do.
‘Instead, he wanted to go over those details once more but did not or could not offer any kind of deal, or even start negotiations.
‘Mr Barclay said that mandate lay with the Prime Minister and the chancellor, yet neither were at the meeting, so we are no further forwards.
‘Rishi Sunak urgently needs to either give his health secretary the mandate to negotiate a settlement with us or come to the negotiating table himself.
‘Actions speak louder than words and if the health secretary and Prime Minster genuinely want to bring an end to the dispute, it is within their gift to do so. Put a realistic, reasonable offer on the table and let serious negotiations begin and if the deal is acceptable, strike action can be averted.’
Hospital trusts and employers have been notified of the 72-hour strike, which GP trainees will be able to join from the picket line or close to the hospital they are currently working in.