Junior doctors to escalate strike action with four-day walkout in April

Striking NHS junior doctors on the picket line (PA Wire)
Striking NHS junior doctors on the picket line (PA Wire)

Junior doctors in England are to escalate their strike action with a four-day walkout in April , the BMA have announced.

In a statement on Thursday morning, the BMA confirmed that junior doctor members would walk out for 96 hours from 7am on April 11 in a bitter dispute over pay.

It comes just days after the union agreed to “intensive talks” on pay with Health Secretary Steve Barclay, raising hopes that further industrial action could be avoided. Unions representing nurses and paramedics have suspended strikes while members vote on a pay offer made by the Government last week.

The BMA’s April strike is the most significant industrial action called by any health union so far and comes as a blow to Mr Barclay’s hope of ending industrial action in the NHS by the Spring.

Junior doctors previously walked out for three consecutive days from March 13, causing more than 175,000 operations and procedures to be cancelled.

NHS bosses reported seeing their busiest Monday of the year so far on the first day of the previous strike, with several London trusts urging patients to only attend A&E in a life-threatening emergency.

The BMA is seeking a pay rise of 26 per cent for junior doctors to restore a real-terms fall in income since 2008. A Foundation Year 1 doctor earns around £29,000 per year, rising to £34,000 a year later.

The Government’s offer to other health unions consisted of a one-off payment for the current financial year 2022/23 worth between £1,655 and £3,789 for Agenda for Change staff in England and a 5 per cent pay increase for 2023/24.

It is unclear if the Government intended to present a similar offer to the BMA.

Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairmen of the BMA junior doctor committee, said: “The Government has dragged its feet at every opportunity. It has not presented any credible offer and is refusing to accept that there is any case for pay restoration, describing our central ask as ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unreasonable’. 

“Even yesterday they continued to add new unacceptable preconditions to talks instead of getting on and trying to find a resolution.

“We therefore have no confidence that without further action these negotiations can be successful.”

They added: “We are not going to stop until we are paid what we are worth, and if ministers don’t accept that when we tell them in person, we will have to tell them from the picket line.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Further strikes will risk patient safety and cause further disruption.

“The Health and Social Care Secretary met the BMA’s junior doctors committee yesterday in the hope of beginning constructive talks to resolve the current dispute.

“The BMA placed a pre-condition on these talks of a 35 per cent pay rise. That is unreasonable.

“Our door remains open to constructive conversations, as we have had with other health unions, to find a realistic way forward which balances rewarding junior doctors for their hard work while being fair to the taxpayer.”

Strike action has also been suspended on the railways after members of the RMT voted in favour of a pay offer made by Network Rail. Industrial action by teachers has also been paused while union officials hold negotiations with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.