BMA urges Health Secretary to return to the table after Today Programme comments on junior doctors

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 21 December 2023
Press release icon

Responding to comments from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, in which she claimed the BMA walked away from junior doctor pay negotiations and suggested that the BMA does not represent junior doctors, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said:

“It’s disappointing after what we felt was an improved tone and approach from Ms Atkins, compared with that of her predecessor, that she appears to have a different recollection of our discussions.

“Throughout negotiations with the Government we had a mutually agreed deadline for them to make a credible offer. This deadline passed and we were therefore forced to call strikes. We did not walk away from negotiations and we are happy to talk to Ms Atkins at any time. It is the Government’s insistence that they will not talk while strikes are scheduled that is blocking progress and wasting unnecessary time. We appeal directly to Ms Atkins and the Government to drop this precondition and get back around the table.

“We’d also ask Ms Atkins what evidence she has to suggest that we do not represent the profession, and how many of England’s 70,000-plus junior doctors she has spoken to recently. Members of JDC are working junior doctors, elected by their peers and are engaging with thousands of colleagues across the country on a daily basis, and the profession remains united in support.

“Ms Atkins may have forgotten that mandates are derived from democratic votes. In our February ballot 98% voted for strike action on a 77% turnout. This mandate was reconfirmed in August when 7,000 more junior doctors voted yes than had done in February. And compared to last December, we now have 15,000 more junior doctor members in England.

“The Health Secretary says she wants to ‘get this done’. If she is serious about this, she should stop trying to divide the profession and instead turn her focus to getting back around the table with us.”


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.