Barclay urges BMA to stop playing politics and end its strikes immediately

Coordinated doctors’ strikes will “significantly increase the risk to patients”, the Health Secretary has said.

Steve Barclay called on the BMA to stop “playing politics and end its strikes immediately” as he warned the mass walkouts are “a step too far”.

He stressed that pay rises coming into force this month – ranging from six percent to 10.3 percent – are “final”.

It comes as health experts warned the strikes will pile pressure on an NHS already dealing with pandemic levels of extra deaths, with “patients paying the price”.

One consultant accused his striking peers of “acting like God and deciding whether people can live or die”. The action on September 20, and for three days between October 2 and 4, is the first joint strike between the two groups of medics.

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Mr Barclay said: “I’ve been clear that this pay award is final and I urge the BMA to end its callous and calculated strike action – these are only serving to lengthen waiting lists, harm patients and put more pressure on their colleagues.

“I urge the BMA to stop playing politics and end its strikes immediately.”

Junior doctors and consultants will provide “Christmas Day” cover during the planned industrial action, meaning no elective care and minimal emergency services.

It is estimated there have been over a million cancelled operations since the medics’ strikes started last winter – costing the NHS an estimated £1billion. Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The strikes are sucking the life out of the NHS.

“The decision to co-ordinate a combined strike is a significant escalation. The doctors know it will have a bigger impact.”

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Mr Hulme called for an independent arbitrator to negotiate between the BMA and the Government, which he said had become stuck in an “intransigent” position. Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, agreed and said: “Millions of patients are suffering and none of them have an influence over industrial action.”

The BMA has secured a new mandate for strikes by junior doctors until February 2024, as part of its campaign for a 35 per cent pay rise.

But one senior consultant, who asked not to be named, criticised his colleagues, saying: “The ­doctors are acting like God, deciding whether people can live or die. By striking, they are ­normalising this, which I find astonishing.”

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