Junior doctors and consultants in England will take joint strike action for the first time over four days across September and October, the British Medical Association (BMA) has announced.
The BMA said consultants will strike on 19 and 20 September with Christmas Day levels of cover, while junior doctors will also walk out on 20 September with similar levels of cover, followed by further strikes on 21 and 22 September.
Both consultants and junior doctors will strike again on 2, 3, and 4 October, again with Christmas Day levels of cover, in what the union said was the first joint strike between consultants and junior doctors in NHS history.
The strike days also coincide with Rishi Sunak’s first Tory party conference as leader and prime minister.
BMA junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the government: we are not going anywhere.
“We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the prime minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members.
“Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the joint strike was “extremely disappointing” – as he hit out at the BMA’s “relentless and co-ordinated strike action”.
“Nearly 900,000 appointments have been cancelled due to strike action,” he tweeted.
“I fear the BMA’s hard-line stance and threat of indefinite action means this number will only keep rising.”
Mr Barclay said doctors who started their hospital training this year will receive a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor in line for a 8.8% rise.
Consultants have been offered a 6% rise – a figure the BMA described as “insulting”, claiming consultants have experienced a “35% pay erosion” over the last 14 years.
“My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives – but this pay award is final, so I urge the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption,” Mr Barclay tweeted.
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The BMA said it was continuing action in the autumn against the “backdrop of a hugely understaffed and under-resourced health service”.
It said the ballot for industrial action for junior doctors had been renewed for a further six months, with 98.4% voting in favour on a 71% turnout.
“Junior doctors and consultants have seen their pay drop in real terms by over a third in the past 15 years,” the BMA said.
It claimed that the government was refusing to enter talks with either junior doctors or consultants.
The latest strike action comes after junior doctors staged 19 days of walkouts across March this year.
Last week striking consultants apologised to patients who suffered delayed or cancelled appointments due to industrial action but said the government was to blame.
The senior doctors walked out for 48 hours from 7am on 24 August.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, said: “The failure of the prime minister and his health secretary to sit down and talk to doctors has now led to the most severe strike action yet.
“The risk to patients is intolerable and the blame for cancelled appointments, delayed operations and rising waiting lists lies firmly at the door of 10 Downing Street.”