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More junior doctor strike action announced and BMA‘s attempts to extend current mandate fail

Further strike dates have been announced by the British Medical Association (BMA)’s junior doctors committee (JDC) after the Government failed to meet the deadline to put an improved pay offer on the table.

The BMA asked the health secretary Victoria Atkins to extend the current strike mandate for four weeks to allow for negotiations to continue, avoiding the need for strike action and for progress to be made in finding a resolution to the pay dispute.

‘Disappointingly, Victoria Atkins declined to agree to extending the mandate,’ the BMA said.

As such, the JDC announced that junior doctors will now strike for five days from 7am on 24 February to 11:59pm on 28 February unless ‘a credible offer is made’.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘The glacial speed of progress with the Government is frustrating and incomprehensible.’

They added: ‘From the very start of the industrial action, we have been clear that there is no need for strike action as long as substantial progress is made, and we remain willing to carry on talking and to cancel the forthcoming strikes if significant progress is made and a credible offer is put forward.

‘The Government’s actions are difficult to understand, especially when their own MPs are telling the Chancellor to pay junior doctors more fairly. Whatever the holdup, from whomever it is coming, it needs to end now.

‘This will be the last action of our current mandate, but we are already balloting for six months more. Even now we are willing to put off these strikes to find a solution – it’s in the health secretary’s hands.’

Meanwhile, the BMA chair of council, Professor Philip Banfield wrote to Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, asking for him to agree to the extension of the strike mandate in return for the cancellation of the strikes, which would allow for two weeks’ negotiations.

The BMA said allowing for the extension was ‘something he can do on behalf of NHS employers in hospital trusts, and which would avoid, in hospitals, the disruption which the strike action causes.’

However, in his response to the letter, Mr Mortimer stated that ‘NHS leaders are deeply concerned’ about the latest strike action announcement.

‘They would join me in urging the JDC to instead focus on finding a way to resume and conclude negotiations with the Government,’ he said.

Referring to the fact that the BMA asked the health secretary to consider an extension to the present JDC strike mandate, he said: ‘I want to be clear that her response is one I support and, in any event, I do not have the ability to direct NHS organisations to accede to your request.’

Junior doctors took strike action for six days in January, marking the longest consecutive strike action taken in NHS history and following failed talks with the newly appointed health secretary.

In late January, the BMA called on the Government to discuss making improvements to its latest pay offer for consultants after members voted 51.1% against the offer.

With such a slim margin, the BMA announced it will not immediately resume consultant strike action, instead giving the Government time to improve the offer.

Consultants in England have a mandate to take industrial action until 18 June 2024.