Junior doctors plan further strike action

by Ben Ireland

Five weeks of talks with government end with ‘no credible offer’

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 5 December 2023

The BMA junior doctors committee have announced more strike dates after the Government was ‘unable to present a credible offer on pay’ despite ‘more constructive’ talks.

Fresh strike dates in England announced this afternoon are from 7am on the 20 December to 7am on the 23 December 2023 and from 7am on the 3 January to 7am on the 9 January 2024.

The six-day strike in January would be the longest walkout in NHS history.

Members of the JDC voted unanimously for further strikes after five weeks of walks with government did not produce a breakthrough.

The last strikes, in October, were followed by ‘weeks of delay by the Department of Health and Social Care in restarting the negotiations’, according to the BMA, which stressed it had been keen to reach a settlement.


Government unprepared

JDC co-chairs Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘We have been clear from the outset of these talks we needed to move at pace and if we did not have a credible offer, we would be forced to call strikes.

‘After five weeks of intense talks, the Government was unable to present a credible offer on pay by the deadline.’

After the recent talks, doctors were offered an additional 3 per cent pay uplift, which the JDC co-chairs said would be ‘unevenly spread across doctors’ grades’ so ‘would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year’.

They added: ‘It is clear the Government is still not prepared to address the real-terms pay cut doctors have experienced since 2008.

‘It is a great shame that even though the approach was more constructive, there was not enough on offer to shape a credible deal, which we hoped would end the dispute.

‘Without enough progress by the deadline, we have no choice but to take action that demonstrates doctors are as determined as ever in reversing their pay cuts.’


Door is open

The JDC co-chairs said the Government ‘can still avoid’ strikes in December and January, insisting: ‘We will be ready and willing any time the Government wants to talk.

‘If a credible offer can be presented the day before, or even during any action, these strikes can be cancelled.’

They said the approach from new health secretary Victoria Atkins and her team ‘has been productive’ but ‘not sufficient to make up for 15 years of declining pay’.

‘A year after our dispute started, we are still too far from turning the tide on plummeting pay, morale, and retention of doctors.

A rally in Manchester A rally in Manchester

‘Rather than waste more time and money and have further disruption to patient care, the health secretary needs to make a credible offer now.’

The BMA’s junior doctors committee first voted for industrial action in February 2023, having announced potential action back in October 2022.

A successful reballot in the summer saw a renewed mandate for strike action through to February 2024.