Junior doctors strike: Up to 350,000 appointments could be cancelled as 4-day walkout begins
Junior doctors have begun a four-day strike over pay amid fears 350,000 appointments will be cancelled and warnings from NHS hospitals - here’s what you need to know.
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Up to 350,000 appointments could be cancelled in the UK as junior doctors begin a four-day strike today (April 11). This is the second time junior doctors have staged a walk-out in less than a month.
It comes after the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) failed to reach an agreement on pay. The BMA is asking for a 35 per cent pay rise to make up for 15 years of below-inflation wage increases - but the government has deemed the amount unrealistic.
When junior doctors went on strike from March 13 -15, around 175,000 outpatient appointments and operations had to be rescheduled. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, told Sky News he expects "up to 350,000 appointments" during this latest industrial action.
Hospital bosses have also warned that they “cannot guarantee” patient safety during the strike, which will involve more than 46,000 junior doctors. It is understood that the NHS will prioritise resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, trauma and neonatal care.
On Friday, the BMA expressed “frustration” at ongoing pay talks with the government and claimed health secretary Steve Barclay refused to meet the union. A spokesperson said it had made a “serious and substantial offer to the minister” and it was “within [his] gift” to halt the strikes.
The BMA added: “The ball is now very much in the secretary of state’s court”. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson did not respond to claims that Mr Barclay was refusing to meet with the BMA but said the department had urged the BMA to find a “realistic approach” as it said it had done with other health unions.
The UK has seen strikes across numerous sectors over the last few months with teachers, train drivers and civil servants all staging walk-outs. In December nurses and ambulance workers joined picket lines following failed talks between the government and union leaders, which were some of the most disruptive strikes in NHS history and carried on into the New Year.
The industrial action prompted health secretary Steve Barclay to make a new pay offer in March 2023, which includes a five per cent permanent increase and one-off bonus worth up to 8.2 per cent - a deal that health unions are still considering.