‘Deeply disingenuous’ for Health Secretary to say BMA blocked locally agreed strike derogations

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 19 September 2023
Press release icon

Local doctors’ leaders say that the Government’s justification for anti-strikes laws is based on a false claim, after the Health Secretary said that the BMA blocked requests for strike exemptions that had already been agreed locally.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme Steve Barclay said that in August, “there were 17 examples where local NHS leaders and BMA local representatives agreed exemptions that they locally felt were necessary in the interests of patients” but that these were “vetoed by the national BMA committee that’s decided to take a much more radical approach”.

Now, in a letter to the Health Secretary1, five Local Negotiating Committee2 chairs with first-hand knowledge of 12 of the derogation requests Mr Barclay referred to, say that this is deeply disingenuous.

The letter says:

“While derogation requests may be discussed at a local level, it is not the responsibility of Local Negotiating Committees (LNCs) to come to any agreements with NHS leadership during strike action. As the LNC chairs involved in 12 of these requests, we can tell you, it is categorically untrue that any agreements were made locally. Derogation requests are subject to a national process which has been agreed by both the BMA and NHS England. In fact, despite our Trusts’ initial derogation requests, urgent and emergency services continued to be delivered with other doctors stepping in to provide cover for their colleagues.”

Commenting on the letter and the Secretary of State’s claims, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:

“The Secretary of State needs to retract these claims and set the record straight. He’s already been caught misleading the public about doctors’ pensions and now he is continuing to deceive the public in a bid to justify and push through anti-strike, anti-trade union legislation. A credible offer will pause these strikes, not continued attempts to demonise those caring for patients 24/7.”


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.

  1. Read the full letter.
  2. Local Negotiating Committees work with the BMA to represent hospital doctors at a local level. Information here.