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Junior doctors confirm dates for strike action after failed talks with new health secretary

Junior doctors in England have voted for further strike action over the Christmas period and in the new year after rejecting the Government’s new pay offer.

This follows five weeks of ‘intense negotiations’ between the British Medical Association (BMA)’s junior doctors committee and the Department of Health and Social Care. 

The Government has offered an additional 3%, on top of the average 8.8% increase already awarded this year.

But the committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said this increase ‘would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors’.

Last month, former health secretary Steve Barclay was replaced by Victoria Atkins, and the BMA has said her approach to pay negotiations has been ‘more constructive’. 

The new strike action will take place for three days from 20 December and six days from 3 January – the January strike will be the longest of the industrial action so far.

Strikes have been put on hold over the last five weeks, but the BMA said the ‘deadline’ has now passed and the Government has been unable to put forward a ‘credible offer’ for junior doctors.

Dr Laurenson and Dr Trivedi said: ‘Without enough progress by the deadline, we have no choice but to take action that demonstrates doctors are as determined as ever in reversing their pay cuts. 

‘However, we can still avoid the need for these strikes. We will be ready and willing any time the Government wants to talk. If a credible offer can be presented the day before, or even during any action, these strikes can be cancelled.’

Health secretary Ms Atkins said: ‘The new strikes will result in more disruption for patients and extra pressure on NHS services and staff as we enter a busy winter period, risking patient safety.’

Last week, the Government and the BMA reached an agreement in principle on an offer that could end consultant strikes.

The offer also saw the Government committing to an overhaul of the workings of the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration. 

In October, NHS formally warned the BMA over the ‘cumulative’ impact of consultant and junior doctor strikes which it said are causing ‘significant disruption and risk to patients’. 

At the time, consultants and junior doctors were jointly striking for three full days.

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.