Junior doctors strike: Striking staff call to be ‘paid their value’ after 15 years of wage erosion

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Junior doctors in Whitechapel are among those striking as the first day of action over pay begins.

A junior doctor on-strike outside an east London hospital said those in the profession just “want to be paid their value”, as the first day of action kicked off around the country.

The four full days of strikes, starting today (April 11) and lasting until 7am on April 15, were called after the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) failed to reach an agreement on pay for junior doctors.

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The BMA’s demands for a pay rise of 35% have been referred to as “unreasonable” by the health secretary Steve Barclay, though the BMA continues to push for complete pay restoration, with junior doctors having had their real-term wages cut by 26% since 2008.

Among those striking this morning were junior doctors at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. One of their number, George, said the key demand behind the strike was a hike in pay, which he said is crucial if the profession is to retain and continue attracting staff.

“Since 2008, junior doctors have had a 26% pay cut and now we are trying to fight for pay restoration for junior doctors,” he said.

“Being a junior doctor is difficult. We have got junior doctors that move abroad because pay and conditions are better there.”

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Junior doctors striking outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch.Junior doctors striking outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Junior doctors striking outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

George said he personally knows people who have relocated for improved pay packages, as well as some staff who have decided to leave healthcare altogether.

With many junior doctors finishing university with fees upwards of £80,000, George said staff “want to be paid their value”, adding: “Junior doctors are realising their value.”

Junior doctors on-strike outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch.Junior doctors on-strike outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Junior doctors on-strike outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

Health secretary Steve Barclay

Health secretary Steve Barclay described the strikes as “disappointing”, and said they have been organised to “maximise disruption after the Easter break”.

He added: “I hoped to begin formal pay negotiations with the BMA last month but its demand for a 35% pay rise is unreasonable – it would result in some junior doctors receiving a pay rise of over £20,000.

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“If the BMA is willing to move significantly from this position and cancel strikes we can resume confidential talks and find a way forward, as we have done with other unions.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay met with the BMA this weekHealth Secretary Steve Barclay met with the BMA this week
Health Secretary Steve Barclay met with the BMA this week | AFP via Getty Images

British Medical Association (BMA)

The co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, said ahead of the strikes they remained open to consider a further offer from the government, which, if “credible”, could have averted the action.

In a new advertising campaign launched today, the BMA showed three doctors with 10, seven and one-years experience in an operating theatre where someone’s appendix is being removed.

The procedure, which lasts around an hour, would see the doctors paid £28, £24.46 and £14.09, a total of £66.55, the campaign states.

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‘Appalling’

Dr Trivedi and Dr Laurenson, commenting on the campaign, said: "It is appalling that this government feels that paying three junior doctors as little as £66.55 between them for work of this value, is justified. This is highly skilled work requiring years of study and intensive training in a high-pressure environment where the job can be a matter of life and death.

"Why then has the government allowed junior doctor pay to be cut in real terms by over a quarter in the last 15 years? Why do ministers not understand that only by valuing and retaining NHS staff will the NHS be able to deliver the high quality healthcare it once could?

"Full pay restoration is not a high price to pay for healthcare that junior doctors deliver. It would see these same three doctors only being paid around £90 between them, still extremely good value for a surgical emergency. That is why this week they are striking to be paid what they are worth.

“As we have made clear in our latest offer to begin talks – we are always ready to talk and Mr Barclay can stop the strikes at any time if he proposes a credible offer.”

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