Junior doctors offer Government ‘final chance’ to settle pay dispute

by Tim Tonkin

Letter to prime minister lays out opportunity to avoid five days of industrial action

Location: England
Published: Thursday 20 June 2024
Downing street

Junior doctors have issued an ultimatum to the prime minister, warning he can avert upcoming strike action by making a written commitment to restoring pay.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Vivek Trivedi and Rob Laurenson have written to the prime minister Rishi Sunak offering him a ‘final chance to do the right thing’ and avoid five days of strike action among junior doctors in England planned for 27 June.

In their 19 June letter to Mr Sunak, Dr Trivedi and Dr Laurenson state the prime minister can stop the walkouts by providing a ‘detailed pathway’ towards a comprehensive deal on restoring juniors’ pay, should his party form the next Government.

It says: ‘The strike action starting on 27 June for five days can be averted if you commit in writing to a detailed pathway that will restore our pay in the form of a comprehensive deal that will be implemented if you are able to form the next Government.

‘We are not asking for the world, and we do not expect pay restoration overnight. A doctor currently starts on £15.53 per hour and we are asking for that to be restored to what a doctor was worth in 2008, which would be £21.58 per hour.

‘As we have repeatedly said, we are happy to have that restoration process occur over time – we have not called for it all in one go.’


Deliver for patients

The letter adds: ‘[It] is entirely within your gift to take this bold action and give a clear plan for the future. Now could be your opportunity to deliver for patients and doctors.

The latest round of planned strikes was called on 29 May, seven days after Mr Sunak’s announcement of a general election on 4 July.

At the time of the announcement, the BMA and the Government had been engaged in externally mediated talks aimed at reaching a credible solution to the impasse over pay restoration, which has seen junior doctors in England engaged in industrial action for more than a year.

The dispute has seen the JDC calling for steps to address cuts to pay amounting to 26 per cent over the past 14 years, a fact the BMA warns has contributed to the NHS’s workforce shortages and a crisis in recruitment and retention of staff.

Vivek trivedi Dr Trivedi

In their letter to Mr Sunak, Dr Trivedi and Dr Laurenson label the Government’s failure to provide a single credible offer on pay to junior doctors as making ‘zero financial sense’.

They say: ‘The latest NHS waiting list figures show increases for March and April even though no strikes were held during these months. We, and doctors across the country, have noted that you have cynically blamed and scapegoated doctors for your Government’s failure to bring down the waiting lists, as you promised the public you would.

‘During this dispute, your Government has not once put forward a credible offer to our members, so it is no wonder doctors are giving up and leaving in their droves, taking with them their experience and expertise.

‘The cost of our industrial action on the NHS has been estimated at £3bn. Pay restoration would be an investment of £1.3bn, which would yield returns by addressing the retention crisis and provide a subsequent uplift in productivity. Despite this, we are writing to you today to provide you with a final chance to do the right thing and avert the upcoming strike action.’

Read the letter or more information regarding next week’s planned strikes