Junior doctors walk out for five-day strike amid long-standing pay row, in latest round of NHS industrial action

24 February 2024, 12:04

Junior doctors have gone on strike again
Junior doctors have gone on strike again. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Junior doctors have gone on strike again as part of their long-running pay dispute with the government.

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The doctors began their latest round of industrial action at 7am on Saturday, with the strike lasting for five days, until 11.59pm on Wednesday.

The junior doctors, who walked out for six days in early January, want a 35% pay increase but say they are willing to negotiate.

Doctors have gone on strike ten times since last March, with around 1.3 million appointments cancelled or postponed as a result.

Many doctors are said to be moving to Australia for better pay and working conditions, including friends of junior doctor Matt Bilton.

Read more: 'NHS belongs to all of us, not just you', Health Secretary tells striking junior doctors, as walkout enters third day

Read more: BMA accuses NHS managers of 'misusing' requests for striking doctors to return to wards

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Mr Bilton, who works in the Thames Valley, said of his friends: "It looks like they’ve made a good decision for themselves."

He told LBC News: "Unfortunately, it’s something I have considered and I will consider through the next years, but it’s also a long way away."

Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, who junior doctors committee co-chairmen of the British Medical Association are coordinating the strike, said: "The Government could have stopped these strikes by simply making a credible pay offer for junior doctors in England to begin reversing the pay cuts they have inflicted upon us for more than a decade.

"The same Government could have even accepted our offer to delay this round of strike action to give more space for talks, all we asked for in return was a short extension of our mandate to strike.

Iain Dale on the junior doctors' strikes

"The fact that ministers have chosen strike action over what could have been the end of this year's pay dispute is disappointing, to say the least."

As the strike was due to begin, Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the BMA junior doctors committee had "refused to put our offer to their members" and called for more talks with the union.

She said junior doctors had been told the Government was "prepared to go further than the pay increase of up to 10.3% that they have already received".

Ms Atkins said people should not overlook the impact the strikes could have on the NHS, adding: "I want to see doctors treating patients, not standing on picket lines.

"More than 1.3 million appointments and operations have already been cancelled or rescheduled since industrial action began. Five days of further action will compound this.

Junior doctors have walked out ten times in the past year
Junior doctors have walked out ten times in the past year. Picture: Alamy

"The NHS has robust contingency plans in place, and it is vital that people continue to come forward for treatment.

"But no one should underestimate the impact these strikes have on our NHS.

"So again, I urge the BMA junior doctors committee to call off their strikes and show they are prepared to be reasonable, so that we can come back to the negotiating table to find a fair way forward."

Thousands of NHS appointments and operations are likely to be cancelled during the fresh round of strikes, after the six-day strike in January saw more than 100,000 appointments put on hold.

Junior doctors went on strike for six days in early January
Junior doctors went on strike for six days in early January. Picture: Alamy

Junior doctors, who have received a pay rise averaging nearly 9% this financial year, make up around half of the NHS doctor workforce.

They can have up to nine years of working experience as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to five years to become a GP.

Junior doctor members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) are also set to walk out until Thursday.

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