A top medical professional has cautioned that the unyielding approach of prime minister Rishi Sunak, concerning healthcare workers’ pay is likely to trigger additional strikes in the NHS.
The British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, professor Philip Banfield, stressed that until a “credible offer,” was received, medical practitioners may feel compelled to stage further industrial actions, The Guardian reported.
Professor Banfield’s remarks followed the launch of a fifth round of industrial action by junior doctors in England.
He said the BMA remains resolute, emphasising that doctors will persist with stoppages until they encounter an acceptable proposal.
The ongoing strike is set to continue until Tuesday (15), and BMA consultants are also preparing for further strikes in the upcoming months.
Professor Banfield criticised the prime minister’s reluctance to engage in discussions and highlighted the lack of progress toward resolving the dispute. He underscored the critical state of the NHS and attributed its deterioration to the government’s neglect.
According to Banfield, in the sixth month of strike action, which has engaged tens of thousands of doctors, spanning from junior practitioners to highly experienced professionals, they have all taken their stand on picket lines.
He said that both the prime minister and the health secretary have grown increasingly intransigent, and belligerent, demonstrating an unwillingness to engage in discussions aimed at achieving mutually acceptable resolutions to terminate the conflicts involving junior and consultant medical staff.
The chief executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley, disclosed that the strikes, which have been ongoing since December last year, have incurred a cost of approximately £1 billion for the NHS.
Furthermore, he highlighted the disruption caused to patient appointments and said that around 1 million appointments could be affected by the conclusion of the current round of strike action.
The strikes have drawn criticism from the health secretary, Steve Barclay who argues that they negatively affect patients and increase pressure on healthcare colleagues. He has called for meaningful discussions to address doctors’ concerns and improve their working conditions.
In defense of the pay rise for junior doctors, the Department of Health and Social Care highlighted a 6% salary increase along with an additional consolidated raise of £1,250.
The government contended that this constituted an “average increase of around 8.8%,” asserting its equity and surpassing typical raises in both the public and private sectors.
In response, Banfield reiterated the BMA’s position, urging the government to present a credible offer that restores the value of pay and ensures the independence of the pay review body.
He emphasised that the BMA has consistently extended invitations to government representatives to engage in negotiations and collaborative efforts towards a resolution.