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Junior doctors launch three-day strike

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Tens of thousands of junior doctors are launching a three-day strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England will form picket lines outside hospitals across the country in the longest-ever period of industrial action by junior doctors.

It comes ahead of strikes by several trade unions on budget day, in what will be one of the biggest single days of industrial action in years.

Workers taking action include civil servants, teachers, university staff, London Underground drivers and BBC journalists. Rallies will be held across the country, with a big protest in Westminster.

Public sector unions have lambasted the government for its handling of the pay disputes, which have been escalating for months.

NHS leaders have said they are concerned the walkout will take disruption caused by recent strikes to the next level, posing a risk to patient safety and setting back work to bear down on care backlogs.

Talks between the government and other health unions will continue this week in the hope of a breakthrough in the long-running NHS pay dispute.

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The BMA said newly qualified medics make £14.09 an hour, less than a barista in a coffee shop, adding that junior doctors in England will have suffered a 26% real-terms pay cut since 2008/09.

An advertising campaign launched by the trade union says: “Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 per hour. A junior doctor makes just £14.09.

“Thanks to this government you can make more serving coffee than saving patients. This week junior doctors will take strike action so they are paid what they are worth.”

Co-chairs of the BMA's junior doctors' committee Vivek Trivedi (left) and Rob Laurenson speak to the media outside the Department Of Health And Social Care, London, following a meeting with Health Secretary Steve Barclay, after they had voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action. Picture date: Thursday March 2, 2023.
Image:
Co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee Vivek Trivedi (left) and Rob Laurenson

Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs, said: “Is £14.09 an hour really all junior doctors are worth? These are people who can be providing life-saving care, having trained intensively at medical school, and racking up around £100,000 worth of debt in the process.

“We are fully supportive of any worker getting an inflation-matching pay rise, and it is worth thinking on the fact that the government has cut junior doctors’ pay by so much that they could earn more serving coffee.

“Is it any surprise that junior doctors are looking for jobs abroad or in other fields when the government is telling them they are worth more than a quarter less than they were in 2008?

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Why are doctors quitting the NHS?

“Losing such valuable clinicians to other countries and professions when waiting lists are at record highs means patients will suffer even more than they are already.

“This is why doctors are going on strike. We are fighting to restore our pay. We are fighting to restore our value. We are fighting to restore our workforce to make the NHS an effective healthcare system again.”

‘Very disappointing’, PM says

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters: “It is very disappointing that the junior doctors’ union are not engaging with the government.

“We are actually having constructive dialogue with other unions who have accepted our offer to come in and talk through it.

“As you have seen with rail… they have put an offer to their members, we are having constructive dialogue with the nurses’ unions and all the other healthcare unions and I would urge the junior doctors to follow suit, and accept the government’s offer to come in and have talks, the other unions have done that and we are making progress.”

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