BMA warns of huge escalation of strike action in England if Government continues to refuse to talk

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Sunday 19 February 2023

The BMA’s most senior doctor says the Prime Minister is thoughtless and bellicose in his refusal to find a workable agreement with NHS staff over pay and conditions.
Speaking at a young doctors’ conference in Bristol today, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA Chair of Council, will say Mr Sunak and the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay are standing on the precipice of an historic mistake. He will say that refusing to enter meaningful negotiations with trade unions means the Government is guaranteeing escalation and thinking they can stay silent and wait it out is reckless.

Tomorrow, forty five thousand junior doctors in England will know the result of their ballot for strike action and Professor Banfield will say in his speech that junior doctors deserve better and that they are not expensive for the expertise and skills they provide. He will say that the Government are letting patients down and all NHS staff are ‘standing up for our patients in a system that seems to have forgotten that valuing staff and their well-being is directly linked to patient safety and better outcomes of care.’

In his speech, Professor Banfield – a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician - will say that he has always supported the notion of the NHS being free at the point of use and, that when he began his career as a hospital porter, aged 18, he could not imagine an NHS in the state it is now – intolerable and unsustainable. He will say that “A conveyor belt of prime ministers with empty promises to the people, each guaranteeing the survival of the health service,” have in fact been “Cutting it to the bone and sucking out the marrow to boot.” He will also say that bed numbers are down, funding is down but staff vacancies and patient demand are soaring.

Professor Banfield will go on to say that “Doctors have never experienced so much stress, so much moral injury from not being able to undertake the care that they're so desperate to give,” and now, “This government, with its silence and disregard for our highly skilled and expert workforce, is consciously and deliberately overseeing the demise of the NHS at a point when it is needed most.”

He will conclude by saying that “all the levers to reverse the exodus of staff and the underfunding and chronic decline of the NHS are within the gift the Health Secretary - who can make pay review bodies properly independent and fit for purpose, the Chancellor, who as chair of the health select committee wrote a book about fixing the NHS and improving patient safety, but seems to have forgotten that now he’s in a position to make things right, and the Prime Minister who has money to ignore billions wasted in dodgy PPE, so should have the money to rescue the NHS from the brink. When the Welsh government can acknowledge the cuts to pay in the healthcare workforce and can commit to supporting full pay restoration, it puts the UK government and is greater resources to shame.”

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. 

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