Daily Mail

Junior doctors’ strike ‘could be worst in health service’s history’

- By Victoria Allen Science Editor

A STRIKE by junior doctors in England starting today could be the worst in the history of the NHS, the country’s top doctor has warned.

The massive disruption, which will see thousands of operations and appointmen­ts cancelled, and affect cancer patients, will be made worse by the militant tactics of the British Medical Associatio­n (BMA).

Ahead of the strike, it advised junior doctors, who make up half the medical workforce, not to tell hospitals if they planned to walk out, making it far more difficult to organise cover.

The BMA yesterday claimed junior doctors could make more money as coffee baristas, as Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it was ‘incredibly disappoint­ing’ that the union had declined an offer to enter pay talks if they called off the 72-hour strike.

Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, told The Sunday Times: ‘It is inevitable that the extraordin­ary pressure caused by what could be the worst strike in NHS history will have a significan­t and lasting impact on cancer care and routine operations.’

The strike is more extreme than the shorter junior doctors’ strike of 2016, when enough continued working for emergency care to still be largely provided.

This time junior doctors will not provide emergency care, and consultant­s will be required to provide cover.

The BMA’s strike advice said: ‘You should not tell your trust if you are taking industrial action.’ If trusts asked junior doctors whether they were striking, the advice stated: ‘You are not legally required to respond.’

The BMA has launched an advertisin­g campaign for its strike, saying junior doctors could earn more as baristas. The union said: ‘Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 per hour. A junior doctor makes just £14.09.’ The BMA’s leadership has taken an increasing­ly militant stance over the past year. The campaign in pursuit of a 35 per cent pay rise has been led by Dr Emma Runswick – a former Momentum activist who is part of a faction within the BMA called Broad Left.

Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairmen of the BMA junior doctors committee, said it was possible to build up around £100,000 worth of debt at medical school, adding: ‘We are fully supportive of workers getting an inflation-matching pay rise.’

Mr Barclay made a formal invitation to enter talks on Friday night but was rebuffed by the BMA, who said it was disappoint­ed by the ‘offer being made so late and with preconditi­ons that would be completely unacceptab­le to our members’. Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘Trust leaders have been working hard to mitigate the impact but the scale and duration of this strike means disruption for patients will move to the next level. It will be a very difficult day for the NHS.’

On the comparison with Pret baristas, a Department of Health spokesman said: ‘This is misleading as it does not take account of the additional earning capacity available to junior doctors.’

A BMA spokesman said: ‘No one is disputing that doctors may have greater earning potential but the reality is under this Government there are junior doctors who would be paid more per hour if they signed up as a barista.’

 ?? ?? Pressure: Sir Stephen Powis
Pressure: Sir Stephen Powis

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