Fears the dispute between junior doctors that has crippled the NHS could drag on for months as the union mocked claiming it will call off strikes if given a ‘credible’ offer despite refusing demand to a ‘ridiculous’ 35% pay rise
Trainee doctors have been derided for promising to call off strikes if ministers make a ‘credible’ offer – while still insisting they will not accept less than a 35 per cent pay rise.
Ministers fear the dispute could drag on for months, harming patients and jeopardizing Rishi Sunak’s promise to reduce NHS waiting lists.
A government source said the junior doctors had been ‘misled’, with the British Medical Association adopting a ‘ridiculous’ wage demand and refusing to even guarantee confidentiality around wage discussions.
“They want us to agree to a 35 percent deal before they even get in the room to talk about this year’s salary,” the source said. “That goes so far beyond what is affordable that it is difficult to take seriously. They also refuse to commit to confidential conversations – it’s not a serious position.’
Talks between the BMA and Health Secretary Steve Barclay broke down within half an hour last month after union representatives refused to budge.
Co-Chairs of the BMA’s Young Doctors Committee Vivek Trivedi (left) and Rob Laurenson speak to the media outside the Department of Health and Social Care, London, after a meeting with Health Secretary Steve Barclay
Trainee doctors have been derided for vowing to call off strikes if ministers make a ‘credible’ offer – while still insisting they will not accept less than a 35 per cent pay rise
The BMA says trainee physician wages have fallen 26 percent in real terms since 2008/2009, as wage increases have been below inflation. It calls for ‘full pay reinstatement’, which would amount to a 35 per cent pay rise and be worth up to an extra £20,000 for some medics.
The union says it has a strong mandate to take action after a turnout of 77 percent of junior doctors, with 98 percent voting for a strike.
Dr. Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA committee for doctors in training, has indicated that the union is only willing to negotiate how the wage recovery will be achieved and not the size of the wage increase. He said: “We have always maintained that our aim is to restore full wages – to reverse the more than 26 per cent real wage cuts imposed on us by the Barclay government over the last 15 years, reducing starting salaries by just £5. are being increased. per hour to £19.
“We have always maintained that we are willing to negotiate how we can achieve wage recovery.” He added: “We are still prepared to suspend the strike this week if the Secretary of State makes a credible offer that can form the basis for negotiations.” Mathew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents health organisations, urged the government and the BMA to ‘move ahead’ with negotiations.
Thousands of striking junior doctors march past the British Parliament to the Department of Health and Social Care
He said: “We want to emphasize again today how important it is to find a way for these two sides to talk to each other because right now it feels like their positions are extremely entrenched.” However, a second government source said: “We are so far apart that there really isn’t much to talk about.”
Downing Street yesterday urged the BMA to drop the 35 per cent wage demand and call off strikes so negotiations can begin. Other health unions representing nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists have negotiated a one-off payment and a 5 percent wage increase, which they have urged members to agree to.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he was ‘ready and willing to engage for pay’ but stressed that the size of the BMA demand was ‘completely out of line with wage arrangements in other parts of the public sector’. Mr Sunak identified reducing waiting lists as one of his five pre-election commitments.
Downing Street acknowledged that the current strike is likely to result in more than 180,000 appointments cancelled, marking progress towards the goal.
A spokesperson said: “That remains one of the prime minister’s top five priorities, but these strikes have an impact on operations and appointments, which is why we want them to end.” The term ‘junior physician’ includes all physicians below the level of consultant.
A medical assistant commencing training in base year 1 can expect to earn a full-time base salary of £29,384 in 22/23.
On average, base year 1 doctors have an additional income worth around 31 per cent of base salary, with a total income of around £38,000. This rises to around £55,000 after three years.