The BMA is imploring Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, to join tomorrow's meeting between senior doctors and Department of Health civil servants, saying that it is beyond belief that a minister would stay away when the stakes are so high.
Wednesday's meeting is the last chance for the BMA to consider any proposal from the Government on pay restoration that could avert strikes being announced for March.
Steve Barclay wrote to the leaders of the BMA's junior doctors committee at the weekend, telling them, "I hope that we can work together to find a constructive way forward, which does not lead to industrial action amongst junior doctors," and that "I look forward to working with you closely on this matter and have asked my office to reach out to arrange a separate meeting with you".
Yesterday more than 36,000 junior doctors in England voted to take strike action – which was over 75% of those eligible to vote – meaning this was the largest ever turnout for a ballot of doctors by the BMA and a record number of junior doctors voting for strike action. So far there has not been any meaningful engagement from the UK Government on pay, despite several letters and the BMA's meeting with the Health Secretary in January. Senior doctors at the BMA believe tomorrow's meeting should be crucially important in finding a workable solution to the 26% real terms pay cut junior doctors have suffered since 2008.
Dr Rob Laurenson, the co-chair of the junior doctors committee says if the meeting is to have any real chance of a successful outcome, the Health Secretary should be there. "For a meeting of this significance to go ahead without the Minister in charge, shows how little attention this Government continues to afford to doctors and their patients. What else do doctors and other NHS workers, being forced to take industrial action, have to do to show how broken, demoralised and underpaid we are?
"Tomorrow's meeting is a really important opportunity for the Minister and the Government to bring a workable solution to the table – a solution that could very well avert our planned strike action and be the beginning of the end of the ever deepening crisis in the NHS. Why can Mr Barclay not see what is really common sense? What else could be more important than trying to stop tens of thousands junior doctors going on strike at a time when patient care is at an all-time low and waiting lists at an all-time high? It is very much within the Government’s gift to stop strike action, but we implore Steve Barclay not to miss this critical meeting."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.