Junior doctors and consultants to strike together for first time in NHS history

Junior doctor members of the British Medical Association held a rally outside Downing Street (PA Wire)
Junior doctor members of the British Medical Association held a rally outside Downing Street (PA Wire)

Junior doctors and consultants will hold a joint strike for the first time in the history of the health service in what has been described as a “serious escalation” in their row with the Government over pay.

The co-ordinated industrial action is set to take place in September and October, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced on Thursday evening.

Consultants had already announced plans to walk out for 48 hours from September 19, and will be joined by their junior colleagues on September 20.

Junior doctors will then continue their strike on September 21 and 22.

Both consultants and junior doctors will then strike together on October 2, 3 and 4.

Staff will work on a “Christmas day cover” basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning emergency care will continue to be provided.

It comes after junior doctors voted in favour to continuing strike action, with the BMA’s mandate on industrial action renewed for another six months.

The union has now told Prime MinisterRishi Sunak he has “nowhere to hide”.

Junior doctor committee co-chairmen Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the Government: we are not going anywhere.

“We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the Prime Minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members. Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.

“Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide. There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us.

“If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if he continues to ignore us. He knows the stakes, he knows our ask and now he knows our resolve.”

In July, the Government said junior doctors would get pay rises of 6%, along with an additional consolidated £1,250 increase, and hospital consultants will also receive 6%.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said there will be “no more negotiations on pay”.

Mr Barclay described the union’s latest announcement as “extremely disappointing” adding: “I know it will weigh heavily on the minds of their NHS colleagues and patients – both of whom are shouldering the brunt of the BMA’s relentless and now co-ordinated strike action.

“My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives, but this pay award is final so I urge the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption.”

Earlier this week it was revealed that the latest consultants strike – which took place on August 24-26 – impacted 45,827 inpatient and outpatient hospital appointments in England.

A further 1,302 cancellations in mental health, learning disability and community settings were also recorded, though this is likely to include a small amount of double-counting, NHS England said.

Industrial action in the NHS has been ongoing since December 2022, with the number of  inpatient and outpatient appointments cancelled now standing at 885,154.

If the community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to more than 940,000 – though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers said co-ordinated action is a “serious escalation in the doctors’ industrial dispute”.

He added: “We now face the grim prospect of another six months of walkouts from junior doctors, which will pile even more pressure on the NHS this winter, causing yet more disruption for patients.

“This is going to be an unprecedented challenge for the health service.

“Trust leaders understand doctors’ reasons for striking, but patients are paying the price. Nearly one million appointments have already been pushed back since industrial action started in December.

“This number grows with every strike, further delaying care and jeopardising vital work to bear down on backlogs, including the government’s key pledge to cut the waiting list.

“Staff morale – already at a low – will likely now take another big hit. Industrial action is also putting a huge strain on stretched NHS budgets, costing an estimated £1 billion so far through lost income and hiring expensive cover.

“Today’s vote must be a wake-up call for both sides of the dispute to sit down together, talk and agree on a resolution.”