BMA responds to Rishi Sunak's "ultimatum" to striking doctors

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 3 August 2023
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Responding to Rishi Sunak's comments in today's Daily Express, Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said:

“We could not agree more with the Prime Minister when he says that 'Most doctors just want to get on with their life’s work, caring for patients.' But they cannot do that without proper pay, and without a properly staffed and properly resourced NHS. For him to blame the ever rising waiting lists on NHS doctors' and nurses' demands for fair pay shows what a poor grasp he has of the origins of the crisis facing the NHS. 
“Waiting lists stood at 7 million patients even before industrial action started this year. They stood at 4 million even before the pandemic. He cannot escape the fact that his government’s failure to properly staff the NHS has led to this disaster, however much he wants to scapegoat NHS workers. This is why doctors are taking industrial action: so that we don’t lose more medics to other countries like Australia and New Zealand that pay fairer wages. 
 “He says he wants to be fair and reasonable, but it is not fair or reasonable for doctors to have faced pay cuts of more than a third since 2008 and be facing another real terms pay cut this year. Nor would any serious economist agree that public sector pay rises fuel inflation, no matter how many times the Government repeats it.
“He says the Government cannot tackle waiting lists alone – he is right, it can’t – but his Government can provide the doctors who will help manage those lists with a credible pay offer. Mr Sunak is at least finally addressing us directly after months of ignoring our calls to talk. But calling an end to negotiations without having once stepped in the room with us is talking at us, not to us. And given that he has already seen the determination of doctors to keep up the fight for fair pay, that is profoundly irresponsible.
“Mr Sunak is right that he can’t address his waiting lists pledge alone: he is going to need to cooperate with doctors. Our door for talks is always open.”

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.