Obvious Health Secretary has no plan for ending strikes as waiting lists reach record high, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 14 September 2023
Press release icon

The BMA is urging the Health Secretary Steve Barclay to return to negotiations with doctors over pay, after he failed to say what his plan was to end industrial action that will see both junior doctors and consultants in England go on strike next week.

On the same day that the number of patients waiting for elective care in England reached another record high – 7.68 million – the Health Secretary was questioned on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about what his plan was to bring an end to strikes and make meaningful progress to bring this figure down – a question he could not answer.

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:

“It’s obvious the Health Secretary has no plan at all to put an end to strikes. He appears to be ‘hoping that doctors will give up’. This is simply not going to happen. Doctors have worked tirelessly to do what they can with rising waiting lists for over a decade due to chronic underfunding, then saved lives through a pandemic in horrendous and often brutal conditions. You cannot run down the health service over 10 years, devalue the expertise of doctors and expect our resolve to stand up for patients to dissipate magically. With junior doctors in England securing another historic mandate just last month, and consultants having their own mandate until the end of the year, the resolve of the profession is undeniable. Next week for the first time, they will come together on the picket lines to fight for fair restoration of pay and to safeguard the NHS, its workforce and patient care.

“In contrast to Mr Barclay’s intransigent position we do have a plan: sit down, negotiate and present a credible offer. There is a deliberate failure in number 10 to accept that this is not about a pay rise, but a recalibration of what the expertise of doctors is worth in 2023. The Secretary of State has not met with BMA leadership in over 6 months, nor with junior doctors for 135 days, and consultants for 171. This Government prefers to demonise its own workforce rather than to recognise the value of their contribution to the health of this nation.

“With the waiting list rising to another devastating record high and edging ever closer to 8 million, doctors are not the barrier to achieving the Prime Minister’s pledge to bring it down, we are the solution. New money for winter pressures announced today will be meaningless while the Government continues refusing to engage with the very professionals responsible for treating patients not just during the most difficult season – but all-year round.

“Doctors don’t want to be on picket lines, they want to be treating patients. But they will not simply give up. Our message to Mr Barclay is clear: the ball is firmly in your court.”


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.