STEVE BARCLAY: Doctors' strike only serves to harm patients

STEVE BARCLAY: Doctors' strike only serves to harm patients

STEVE BARCLAY: Our offers to doctors are fair and final. This strike only serves to harm patients

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS this year, we can be proud of everything it’s achieved – thanks to the hard work and dedication of its staff. I recognise their tireless efforts and that’s why we’ve implemented the independent pay review body recommendations in full.

This means doctors will receive a substantial uplift. In fact, it’s one of the most generous pay uplifts across the entire public sector. Yet, the BMA continues to act recklessly by going ahead with further unnecessary strike action this week, which serves only to harm patients and put further pressure on their own colleagues.

We’ve seen again and again that no one benefits from this disruption and nearly 800,000 appointments or procedures have been postponed as a result of industrial action. It’s extremely concerning, especially as the NHS works hard to recover from the pandemic and tackle a record backlog. I’m glad that some members of the BMA have been outspoken with their own concerns over the strikes.

Steve Barclay demands that doctors end their strikes and stop harming patients. He is pictured in Parliament Square in London, July 19

A protester holds a placard which states ‘I’m a doctor, get me out of here’, during the demonstration outside Downing Street in March earlier this year

The lowest-paid junior doctors in training will see their salaries increase by 10.3 per cent, as part of an award worth an average of around 8.8 per cent, which is above what most in the public and private sectors are receiving. This is expected to increase average basic pay for NHS doctors in training by £3,800 to around £47,600.

This award is more generous than other public sector staff will receive, with Armed Forces personnel seeing an increase of up to 9.7 per cent for the most junior ranks and 5.5 per cent for the most senior, with an included non-contributory defined benefit pension scheme.

And consultants will see a 6 per cent pay rise – on top of the 4.5 per cent rise they had last year. Many are already on six-figure salaries and this award is worth an average increase of around £6,300, taking their average earnings to £134,000 a year. The value we place on our medical workforce is also why, when consultants came to me with issues concerning their pensions, I listened and the Government responded.

Following direct calls for reform from the BMA, we changed the annual allowance for tax-free pension saving, increasing it by 50 per cent to £60,000, and removed the £1million lifetime cap. That means consultants can build an additional £3,750 annual pension above inflation tax free. All in all, this means a newly qualified consultant who retires at 65, having worked full time throughout their career, could expect to receive an inflation-proofed pension of around £78,000 per year. In contrast, the average British pension per year is £18,772. It’s an extremely fair outcome. And it’s final.

A striking junior doctor from the British Medical Association takes part in a rally in Parliament Square, June 16

And a majority of the public agree. Recent polling of more than 2,000 UK adults found that over half think the pay award for junior doctors is ‘about right’ or ‘too high’. Some within the BMA have even suggested these strikes could continue indefinitely. This is particularly concerning as we head into winter, where services are notoriously under more pressure.

So, to the doctors who are still striking over pay, I want you to know you are a key part of our NHS, and I hope you see our decision is fair and reasonable. Strikes benefit no one and the public want to see an end to them – it is not fair on those who need the NHS most.

To echo the Prime Minister, we have a national mission to tackle waiting lists and we need everyone to pull together to do this. I urge those who are planning to walk out, to listen to BMA members who are declining to take part in the industrial action, as well as those who have opted not to join the union.

We are doing everything we can to address staffing issues in the NHS, including publishing the first NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more staff. This includes doubling the number of undergraduate medical school training places to more than 15,000 by 2031 – backed by over £2.4billion of new government investment for the next five years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) and Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay during a visit to St George’s hospital in London, March 16

Junior doctors stage a rally in Parliament Square as their 72 hour strike action over pay restoration dispute comes to an end, June 16

As has always been the case, I want to hear about how we can improve the working lives of doctors and NHS staff and will always be keen to talk about this. Last month I invited a group of doctors in training to sit down with me and talk about their experience of training. They shared with me some of the measures and support that they would like to see in their workplace, such as improved technology to reduce unnecessary admin demands.

I want to have a grown-up conversation about how to fix the legitimate frustrations these doctors face, and work together to improve their working lives. Striking is not going to help anyone achieve that and ultimately it is patients that have to bear the brunt of walkouts.

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