NHS doctors and counselors in training could strike until 2025, their union has warned.
Professor Philip Banfield, council chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said doctors ‘will strike until the next general election – and beyond – if necessary’ to secure a rise above the government’s five per cent bid set.
However, he said the BMA has asked for accelerated talks with ministers over the next two weeks in a bid to reach a “credible” wage deal ahead of strikes this month.
Trainee doctors are planning the biggest strike in NHS history, five days on picket lines this month, followed by a 48-hour strike by consultants.
Ministers had so far refused to budge, but Health Secretary Steve Barclay today suggested he is ready to give doctors a bigger pay rise – stating there needs to be ‘movement on both sides’.
NHS trainee doctors and consultants could strike until 2025, their union, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned (photo of NHS medics on strike in April)
Professor Philip Banfield, council chairman at the BMA, said doctors ‘will strike until the next general election – and beyond – if necessary’
Professor Banfield, the BMA’s chief medical officer, will deliver the strike warning at the BMA’s annual conference in Liverpool.
With the next general election not until January 2025 – his threat points to possibly another 18 months of doctors organizing strikes.
He is expected to say the union is “willing to do whatever it takes for our profession and for our patients.”
Professor Banfield will accuse ministers of refusing to do so acknowledging that doctors have seen real pay cuts of up to 35 per cent since 2008/9 and of the ‘devastation’ wrought on the NHS by ‘successive UK governments’.
However, he adds that he has written to the Prime Minister with a “big offer” to hold talks over the next two weeks to “break the deadlock” in the doctors’ strike and reach a settlement.
The BMA has previously held talks with the mediation service ACAS in the hope of ending the bitter impasse, which has been dragging on for months.
Although ACAS has said it is ‘well prepared and ready to help’, it can only get involved if ministers also agree to the intervention.
Talks with the BMA’s junior arts committee broke down after the government’s 5 percent wage offer.
The union is now demanding a full wage recovery to 2008 levels, representing a 35 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
Trainee doctors plan to stage a five-day strike from July 13 to 18 as part of this campaign.
The NHS is expected to have a lower level of service during the strike.
This means few elective surgeries or appointments go through, with thousands being cancelled.
Most NHS resources will instead be focused on maintaining ‘life and limb care’, such as A&E services and looking after patients already in hospital.
Consultants, the top doctors in the NHS, also plan to run their own campaign on July 20-21, where they will only provide reduced ‘Christmas Day’ coverage.
Both strikes are expected to add even more canceled appointments to the nearly 650,000 NHS cancellations and postponements due to massive NHS disruptions over the past eight months.
But as a sign of a shift in approach within the government, the Minister of Health suggested today that the government is willing to negotiate with the BMA.
More than half a million NHS appointments in England have been canceled due to healthcare strikes between December and April, official figures show
The proportion of GP appointments in England held face-to-face has remained stubbornly around 70 per cent in recent months. Eight out of 10 consultations were in-person before the pandemic. But the figure hasn’t bounced back so far. Data shown up to December 2020
There were just 27,558 full-time equivalent fully qualified GPs employed in England last month, 1.6 per cent fewer than the 18,000 registered in June 2021. It was 5.3 per cent fewer than the more than 29,000 employed in June 2017
Mr. Barclay told The times that the 35 percent requirement is unreasonable “given the headwinds we are facing from inflation.” But he added: “I think there should be movement on both sides.”
Specifically on the advisor dispute, he also said that he was ‘very keen to have further discussions with them’ and that there were parts of their contracts where there was ‘room for further discussion’.
But Mr Barclay ruled out talks with doctors while strike dates were scheduled.
In his first conference address since being elected BMA Chairman of the Board last year, Professor Banfield will label family medicine as ‘the cornerstone of cost-effective and efficient healthcare’ and warn that ‘if we lose family medicine, we lose the NHS. ‘.
The latest NHS data shows an estimated 28.7 million GP appointments were made in May.
Of these, 69.8 percent took place face-to-face. This compares to about 80 percent pre-pandemic.
Professor Banfield will explain that NHS medics face understaffing every day and ‘don’t get their due’.
He will tell doctors, ‘look patients in the eye every day and apologize if we have not been able to provide the care and treatments we have been trained to provide’.
The BMA boss is also about to lash out at what he called the government’s “biggest investment ever” in sending NHS medics to Australia.
Professor Banfield referred to a government plan to train more doctors, but the union leader argued that without increasing their pay, the UK was simply helping to train future doctors from other countries.
A record number of medics want to leave for Australia from the UK, while hundreds have already made the journey, citing better pay and working conditions than in Britain.
The South Australian Government ad campaign visiting the British Medical Association’s picket lines at St George’s Hospital in London during the latest young doctors’ strike
This graph shows the number of UK registered doctors who have requested documents for a job abroad in the past five years. Interest peaked in 2022, but 2023 is also on track to be a peak year
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has downplayed fears of medics leaving the UK for Down Under.
On Friday, he pointed to data from the General Medical Council showing that around 95 per cent of newly qualified doctors work in the NHS.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We greatly appreciate the work of NHS advisers and it is disappointing that the BMA advisers have voted to take strike action.
‘Consultants received a 4.5% pay rise last financial year, raising average earnings to around ?128,000, and will benefit from generous pension tax changes announced within budget.
Strikes are hugely disruptive to patients and put pressure on other NHS staff.
?We are already in discussion with the BMA Consultants Committee about their concerns and stand ready to reopen talks ? we are urging them to come to the negotiating table rather than continue with their proposed strike dates.
“We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.”