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THE Tories took a step towards sacking striking NHS staff on the first of a four-day NHS doctors walkout today.
Ministers outlined plans to extend strike laws to ensure doctors and nurses in hospitals provide a minimum level of cover as thousands of consultants withdrew their labour.
Junior doctors will join them in their pay row today, marking the first-ever joint strike by doctors in NHS history, before continuing their strike on Thursday and Friday this week.
Both consultant and junior doctor members of the British Medical Association (BMA) will again join forces for strikes on October 2, 3 and 4.
Consultations on minimum service levels have already run for ambulance staff, fire-and-rescue services and passenger rail workers, after the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act became law.
The new regulations, which are open to consultation and could come in next year, would mean doctors and nurses have to provide a certain level of cover after being issued with a “work notice” by employers on what is needed to maintain “necessary and safe levels of service.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay was blasted by TUC general secretary Paul Nowak for saying the “regulations would provide a safety net for trusts and an assurance to the public that vital health services will be there when they need them.”
Mr Nowak said: “This is yet another desperate attempt from the Conservatives to distract from their dire record in government.
“Everyone knows NHS professionals already provide safe levels of staffing during industrial action.
“These laws haven’t been designed to resolve conflicts – they’ve been designed to escalate them. They will only sour industrial relations and worsen disputes.
“They’re unworkable, undemocratic and almost certainly in breach of international law.
“That’s why we won’t rest until this Act has been repealed. And we won’t stand by and let workers get sacked for defending their pay and conditions.”
In the letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Mr Barclay, Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said the union has always been clear that “strikes could be avoided if the government was to present us with a credible offer that we could put to our members.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that rather than looking at legislation on minimum service levels, the government should be “stopping strikes in the first place.”
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