The new health secretary has said she is ‘committed to getting around the table’ to resolve disputes around pay that led to NHS strikes.
In her first speech since being appointed to the role in a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, Victoria Atkins thanked NHS staff for ‘all the fantastic and vital work’ they do.
She said that she is ‘acutely aware’ of how the strikes have disrupted patient care, and she will ‘get around the table’ to negotiate because she ‘wants to see a fair and reasonable resolution’.
During the speech, pre-recorded and delivered virtually at the NHS Providers annual conference in Liverpool today, Ms Atkins said: ‘We’ll face challenges along the way. But believe me, I am an optimist.
‘Together, we can overcome these challenges, and take the long-term decisions that will build a brighter future for our NHS.
‘And this is the approach I will take to industrial action. I’m acutely aware of how the strikes have disrupted patient care, and I’m committed to getting around the table.
‘Because, I want to see a fair and reasonable resolution. This winter will be challenging, but I know that rising to such challenges is what you all do so well.’
Ms Atkins was appointed to the role in the midst of industrial action negotiations and will be the seventh health secretary since 2018.
Earlier this month, the BMA launched a strike action ballot of SAS doctors and a re-ballot of hospital consultants to extend their industrial action mandate until June next year.
Both ballots were launched as the union said that talks between BMA leaders and Government on how to resolve both pay disputes were still underway, but ‘no credible offer’ has been put on the table.
The BMA’s SAS committee entered formal negotiations last month, following a vote in favour of joining strike action over the Government’s unsatisfactory pay offer.
The union also said that ‘productive and intensive talks’ between the consultants committee and the Government had began, after ministers agreed to meet with the committee in the hope to find a resolution to the pay dispute.
In July, the Government announced a 6% pay rise for doctors (excluding GP partners) saying this was a ‘final’ offer which ‘no amount of strikes’ would change.