Meeting with Department of Health ‘lacked any credibility,’ and fails to avert strike action by junior doctors in England

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Friday 10 March 2023

Junior doctors in England have turned down an eleventh-hour request from civil servants to call off their strike planned for next week because the Government’s proposals for negotiations lacked credibility. This afternoon leaders from the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee met with officials from the Department of Health – the Minister for Health did not turn up – but the talks came to nothing as civil servants were not forthcoming on any kind of viable offer.

Last week during a meeting with junior doctors, the Health Secretary Steve Barclay admitted he did not have any mandate from the Prime Minister to start negotiations, and today’s meeting also failed to demonstrate that any level of credible negotiations were on the table. 

Despite our door always being open, the Government has said it is unwilling to continue negotiations whilst strike action is progressing – meaning that no further negotiations are now expected until after the 72 hour walkout next week.  Junior doctors in England have seen their pay fall in real terms by 26% in recent years and they are asking for full pay restoration. For a junior doctor starting out this means an increase in their pay from £14 per hour to £19 per hour.

The co-chairs of the junior doctors committee, Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Civil servants at the Department of Health called this meeting with little over an hour’s notice today and we went in good faith, despite our busy workloads. We want nothing more than to enter into meaningful negotiations around proposals to deliver pay restoration for junior doctors. We have said this on so many occasions during the past eight months but we have so little confidence now in this Government after Ministers have failed to hold meaningful discussions with us time and time again. Today we were asked to suspend the strikes but with nothing on the table in return – no credible offer, nothing to negotiate, and no clear understanding of our demands, or what has led us to feel we have no alternative but to take strike action.

“It was clear from the start of the meeting  - a meeting to which the Health Secretary did not turn up – that his officials were either unwilling or unable to make pay restoration part of the negotiations and even worse, they were not able to say what any negotiations would look like. We are beyond disappointed that even at this late hour, the Government still cannot see a way to get around the table and start talking to find a reasonable settlement. We would have talked all weekend long if necessary to bring junior doctors the pay restoration they need and the respect they deserve. Sadly the Health Secretary doesn’t seem to share our commitment ”              


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.