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Hospitals to come to a standstill across England as consultants launch another 48-hour strike

ROUTINE hospital care is set to come to a standstill across England today as consultants launch another massive 48-hour pay strike.

The walkout, which combined with the bank holiday weekend could see most services unavailable for five days, comes after the British Medical Association (BMA) announced a further three-day strike later this year.

Senior doctors, who first downed tools last month, are set to follow up an already announced two-day walkout between September 19 and 20 with a strike on October 2, 3 and 4, it warned.

NHS leaders are anticipating “major disruption” during the current action, with thousands of essential staff expected to be absent from work.

But consultants – hit by years of plummeting take-home pay – will still provide “Christmas Day cover,” meaning emergency care will be provided.

People should continue to use 999 for life threatening emergencies and NHS 111 for other health concerns, officials said. GP and pharmacies are largely unaffected.

Despite the expected impact, Tory ministers, who have repeatedly insisted that pay talks are over after the government forced a below-inflation 6 per cent rise on consultants, have not met with representatives of senior doctors for months, Labour charged.

In a written parliamentary answer to shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, health minister Will Quince confirmed the last meeting was on March 27 – before consultants voted to take industrial action.

Mr Streeting accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “giving up any attempt to solve strikes in the NHS.

“[He] refuses to speak to doctors and instead shamelessly uses them as an excuse for his failure to cut waiting lists.

“Patients don’t want excuses, they want action. If the Conservatives have given up on governing, they should step aside and let Labour clean up their mess.

“There were no national NHS strikes when Labour was last in office — we need a government that will treat NHS staff with respect, open its door for talks and bring these strikes to an end.”

BMA consultants committee chairman Dr Vishal Sharma said: “No consultant wants to be striking and we head out to picket lines today with heavy hearts.

“We would much rather be inside the hospital seeing our patients.

“But we cannot sit by and watch passively as we are persistently devalued, undermined and forced to watch colleagues leave – much to the detriment of the NHS and patients.

“By refusing to talk to us – it’s now been 150 days since the Health Secretary [Steve Barclay] met with us – it just shows that the government is not serious about the NHS, its workforce or patients.”

He warned Mr Sunak that the union is “serious about protecting the consultant workforce and thereby the NHS and patients.

“Consultants are clear that they’re prepared to take regular action and politicians must be left in no doubt that our dispute will not go away simply because they refuse to negotiate – we will not be ignored.”

Junior doctors are in the middle of their own dispute and a third group of hospital doctors – specialist, associate specialist and speciality doctors – are planning an indicative industrial action ballot unless ministers “urgently improve their pay and working conditions,” the BMA stressed earlier this month.

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