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‘Junior doctors are in despair at this government’s refusal to listen’

Staff stage 72-hour strike as government insists on real-terms pay cut

THOUSANDS of junior doctors began a 72-hour strike across England today as the government fails to meet workers on their demands.

Doctors gathered at picket lines outside their hospitals as rallies were held throughout the country, including in Oxford, Birmingham, London and Manchester.

The action by members of the British Medical Association, which will run until 7am on Saturday, is the third by the medics in the country this year.

The BMA is calling for a full restoration of pay for junior doctors, which it says has seen a 26 per cent cut since 2008.

The government has offered just 5 per cent to end the dispute.

BMA junior doctors’ committee co-chairman Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson said in a statement: “Junior doctors are in despair at this government’s refusal to listen.

“It should never have taken two whole rounds of strike action to even put a number on the table, and for that number to be a 5 per cent pay offer – in a year of double-digit inflation, itself another pay cut – beggars belief.

“Junior doctors in England have seen their pay cut in real terms by more than a quarter over the last 15 years.

“Today they are demonstrating what that means to the survival of the NHS.”

More than half of junior doctors in England are making plans to leave or are thinking about leaving the NHS as a result of the government’s response to industrial action, according to a poll by the BMA.

Some 67 per cent do not think the NHS in its current form will exist in 10 years and 88 per cent expect the NHS to get worse over the next 18 months.

Trainee anaesthetist Arianna Zembryzcka, who was on a picket line outside University College Hospital in London today, called the 5 per cent offer “frankly disrespectful and disgraceful.”

“It will not even cover this year’s inflation let alone years of pay erosion,” she said.

“Even on my salary I am struggling to pay rent in London, which is expensive. Earning £14 an hour is simply not enough.”

Junior doctor Sumi Manirajan said she is considering moving to Australia for better pay as working for the NHS is “unbearable.”

She said: “It used to be that winter was horrific and the rest of the year was normal service. Now it’s winter all year round.

“It’s awful seeing patient after patient having the worst outcomes in terms of waiting times.

“Doctors don’t want to go but we’re being forced to leave the NHS.”

BMA chairman of council Professor Philip Banfield has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to intervene to resolve the dispute.

NHS Confederation director Rory Deighton also called for the government to search for a “desperately needed” resolution.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said it is “extremely disappointing” that the BMA is going ahead with further strike action.

Junior doctors in Scotland will also be taking a three-day strike action from July 12 after rejecting a pay offer of 14.5 per cent over two years.

The BMA said that in Scotland, the medics have has a real-terms pay cut of 28.5 per cent, and so the offer “didn’t even come close to bringing us back to where we were 15 years ago.”

Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson insisted today that he would do everything he could to try to avoid strike action in the country’s hospitals but stressed that there is no “further space in the health budget in which to meet any further increase.”

BMA Scottish junior doctors’ committee chairman Dr Chris Smith said that upping wages further would be a “down payment on the future of the NHS” to make sure it stays an effective health service.

He added that strike action is an “absolute last resort” as he called on the Scottish government to make an improved offer.

Unite’s members at the Christie hospital in Manchester and the City Hospital in Birmingham were also on strike today for a real pay rise in action planned to co-ordinate with the BMA strike.

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