Junior doctors may strike until March 2024 or beyond, leader says

Junior doctors’ strikes could last until March 2024, BMA leader claims amid fears upcoming three day walk-out will be a ‘disaster’ for crippled NHS

  • Health union will need tore-ballot its members to keep its strike action going 
  • Read more: Cost of NHS strikes laid bare: Waiting list for ops soars to 7.42million

Devastating strikes by junior doctors could last until March 2024 or beyond, a union leader has said.

Dr Rob Laurenson, co-chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee, said it will be re-balloting between June 19 and August 31 for an extended six months’ mandate.

If approved, that would give the union legal rights to plot NHS walk-outs until spring next year.

Dr Laurenson also warned the BMA, described as militant by critics, could choose to re-ballot again during that period ‘to extend our mandate further’.

Asked if he is in this for the long haul, Dr Laurenson replied: ‘Our members have given us a clear instruction; they would like us to pursue full pay restoration back to 2008 and that’s what we intend to do in our representation of our doctors and our healthcare system.’

It comes after Dr Laurenson acknowledged there will be huge disruption for patients during this week’s strike – but would not apologise.

More than half a million NHS appointments in England have been cancelled due to health service strikes since December, official figures show

Dr Rob Laurenson, co-chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee has said medics could continue to strike until March next year

He said it is ‘a real shame’ junior doctors in England have to stage a 72-hour walkout from 7am on Wednesday.

The committee has called for a 35 per cent hike in wages, a demand branded ‘unreasonable’ by Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who said there must be ‘movement on both sides’ of the dispute.

Dr Laurenson said accepting the Government’s offer would have meant ‘another real-terms pay cut’.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, he said: ‘It’s a real shame that we’re having to call strike action again because the Government’s offer, which was 5 per cent and £1,500, was nothing that began to even restore the pay erosion and in fact would have led to another real-terms pay cut.

‘So unfortunately we’ve had to call for another three days of strike action and I’m afraid that there will be some disruption in elective and outpatient care for patients, which I don’t think anyone in this country can afford.

‘So I don’t understand why the Government won’t come back to the table and won’t put a credible offer to the table.’

Read more: Cost of NHS strikes laid bare: Waiting list for routine ops soars to another record high – with 7.42million patients now stuck in limbo 

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England soared to a record 7.42million (red line) in April, figures show. More than 370,000 people in the queue for routine ops, such as hip replacements, were waiting for more than a year (yellow bars)

When asked if he wanted to do so, Dr Laurenson would not apologise to those patients who have been waiting for non-urgent appointments and procedures.

He said: ‘When hospital leaders say non-urgent, non-urgent might be something like non-cancer, but it’s still really important to each individual patient who has been waiting and often waiting for a really long time.

‘I think what’s really important is that the Government has failed for over a decade now to produce a credible workforce plan that’s going to be able to address outpatient waiting times and we’ve seen over the last 10 years waiting times for appointments go up and up and up.

‘It’s the Government’s responsibility to fund and resource a healthcare system that works for everyone in this country.’

Again asked if he would apologise, he said: ‘The strikes don’t have to go ahead though. The Government can come to the table and the Government can give us a credible offer.

‘I can understand that there’s going to be an immense amount of frustration from patients and from our other colleagues when our doctors go on strike this weekend, and it’s going to cause an immense source of frustration for everyone.

‘Myself, my family, we all rely on the NHS as well and the disruption caused is not pleasant for anyone involved. It’s a disaster and it’s a disaster that falls primarily at the feet of Government.’

The Government has been locked in a series of disputes with unions over pay and working conditions in the NHS since last year, resulting in a wave of strike action across the health service.

Thousands of operations and appointments have been cancelled as a result, sending the waiting list to a record high. 

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