Junior doctors to strike… again! Militant union announces 5 more days of walk-outs at end of February in plot to bring NHS hospitals to another standstill

Junior doctors will strike again later this month, announcing five days of industrial action designed to bring hospitals to a standstill.

Thousands of medics demanding pay increases of up to 35 percent will walk out from February 24 to 28.

British Medical Association (BMA) bosses claimed the government had rejected its ‘gesture of goodwill’ by failing to meet the deadline to ‘put an improved offer on the table’.

More than a million appointments and operations have been canceled due to the never-ending wave of NHS strikes starting in 2022.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins said the union’s newly announced dates proved they were not ‘ready to be reasonable’.

Junior doctors on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London during the latest wave of strike action in January

Junior doctors on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London during the latest wave of strike action in January

She said: ‘This action called by the BMA Junior Doctors Committee does not indicate that they are ready to be reasonable.

‘We had already provided them with a salary increase of up to 10.3 per cent and were prepared to go further.

‘We encouraged them to make an offer to their members, but they refused. We are also open to further discussions on improving the working lives of doctors and the wider workforce.’

Ms Atkins urged the union to stop the action, arguing it was ‘not in the spirit of constructive dialogue’.

She added: ‘To make progress I am asking the Junior Doctors Committee to cancel their action and come back to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS.’

Junior doctors salary – the truth

Junior doctors were awarded a 6 per cent pay rise plus a consolidated payment of £1,250 in July, in line with the recommendation of the Independent Review Body on Doctors and Dentists’ Remuneration.

The package equated to an average increase of 8.1 per cent from 2022/23 to 2023/24, or 10.3 per cent for those in their first year of training.

Average basic pay for a first-year doctor rose from £29,384 to £32,397, while a junior doctor who had been a specialty trainee for six years or more rose from £58,398 to £63,152.

Many are paid a higher amount to work overtime and receive increased rates for unsociable hours.

Junior doctors have pocketed the extra money despite vowing to go on strike, with some boasting the extra income will subsidize further walkouts.

Steve Barclay, who was Health Secretary from October 2022 to November 2023, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the settlement as final and insisted there would be no more talks about pay.

But the British Medical Association has held further negotiations with officials and ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care since October, resulting in an offer of an extra 3 per cent, which was rejected by union representatives.

The BMA claimed that junior doctors have seen their pay erode by more than a quarter in real terms over the past 15 years.

The trainee medics are demanding full salary reinstatement – worth around 35 per cent – and said they would not settle for anything less, although senior figures in the union suggested they could compromise.

The strikes will start from 7am on February 24 until just before midnight on February 28, meaning they will cover five days in total.

In a joint statement, the co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, Dr. Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi, said the strikes could have been averted if the government had agreed to come to the negotiating table.

“Even yesterday we were willing to postpone further strike action in exchange for a short extension of our current strike mandate,” they said.

‘Had the health secretary agreed to this, an act of good faith on both sides, talks could have continued without further strikes. Unfortunately, the government refused.

‘The speed of progress with the government is frustrating and incomprehensible.’

They added that despite Ms Atkins’ statements during the last round of strike action that her junior doctors would meet ‘within twenty minutes’ when no strikes were planned, it was more than 20 days before they were offered a meeting.

But they said the union was still willing to call off the upcoming strikes if a credible pay offer was made.

“From the start of the industrial action, we have been clear that there is no need for strikes as long as significant progress is made, and we remain prepared to keep talking and to cancel the upcoming strikes if significant progress is made and” A credible offer is being made,’ they said.

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: ‘Rishi Sunak is personally blocking a deal with the junior doctors.

‘He bears responsibility for the canceled operations and appointments that desperate patients will face again.

‘This can’t go on. Patients are desperate and staff are exhausted.

“If the Conservatives have stopped governing, they need to stand aside so Labor can get the NHS back on its feet.”

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of the membership organization for health service providers, NHS Providers, said the strikes were ‘another blow’.

He said: ‘Seventy days of industrial action across the NHS in England since December 2022, costing the NHS around £3 billion and delaying more than 1.4 million routine appointments and procedures, has added to pressure throughout the NHS.

“Patients having to wait even longer for the care they need is a huge concern.”

He urged ministers and unions to “go back to serious talks” to resolve the dispute.

“We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

‘Trust leaders want to be able to put all their energy into giving patients first class care and cutting waiting lists rather than spending too much time planning and dealing with disruptive strikes.’

The BMA’s new wave of strike action comes just a month after the last walkout by junior medics. Thousands took to the campaign trail for a record-breaking six days of industrial action which caused major disruption across the NHS.

While previous walkouts have led to the cancellation of elective care, emergency services such as A&Es have remained open, and officials have urged Britons who need urgent medical care to still seek help if necessary.

The BMA is campaigning for a massive 35 per cent pay rise for junior doctors.

It claims its demands are for ‘pay recovery’, as previous NHS pay rises for medics since 2008 have not kept pace with inflation.

Junior doctors in their first year now have a basic salary of £32,300, while those with three years' experience make £43,900.  The most senior earn £63,100

Junior doctors in their first year now have a basic salary of £32,300, while those with three years’ experience make £43,900. The most senior earn £63,100

Junior doctors in their first year now have a basic salary of £32,300, while those with three years’ experience make £43,900. The most senior earn £63,100.

Ministers previously offered junior doctors an 8.8 per cent pay rise on average for the 2023/20 financial year.

However, the lift was higher for first-year medics, who received a 10.3 percent boost.

Ministers insisted it was the final offer. But Ms Atkins offered medics an additional 3 per cent on top of this rise.

But the union said at the time that this improved amount was still ‘totally insufficient’.