Junior doctors' strikes: BMA pauses walkouts 'at the moment' over new pay talks with Labour

Junior doctors have ruled out strike action “at the moment” following positive pay talks with new Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting.

The British Medical Association has led 11 strikes over almost two years, which has caused more than a million appointments and operations to be cancelled. The last walkout from 27 June to 2 July saw 61,989 procedures and consultations get axed.

Union officials say their pay has been cut by more than a quarter over the last 15 years and have called for a 35% increase, although Labour has said it cannot afford to meet this demand. Settling the industrial action has been Streeting’s number one priority since assuming office on Friday, and he said he was optimistic about the talks held yesterday. “This is an important reset moment in the relationship between junior doctors and their government,” Streeting said.

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More negotiations are expected to take place next week, Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairmen of the BMA’s Junior Doctors’ Committee have said. They confirmed that there are no plans for more strike action “at the moment” as talks progress.

A junior doctor on the picket line. Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA WireA junior doctor on the picket line. Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire
A junior doctor on the picket line. Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

After the meeting, Dr Trivedi said: “It was a positive meeting, we were pleased to be able to meet the Secretary of State and his team so quickly after the General Election – it signifies the urgency that they’re placing on resolving this dispute which has already lasted 20 months. We talked a little bit about some of the roadblocks that have prevented us from progressing so far, and how we can navigate through those to reach a resolution.

Dr Laurenson said the talks felt “collaborative” and continued: “This Secretary of State actually wanted to learn what was going wrong and why things were stalling, and we’re happy to have those conversations.

“This meeting was definitely a positive step, but I don’t think we can place a value, or a certainty on how quickly things are going to take to resolve, or what might need to happen to make things resolve.”

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“This was a positive first step, but that’s all it was - the first step,” he added. “There’s much more meat that needs to be added to the bones before we’re going to be able to come out with any sort of agreement.”

Earlier in the day, Streeting spoke at the Tony Blair Institute’s Future of Britain Conference 2024 and outlined the new government’s position. He said: “In opposition, we were very clear that the headline 35% pay demand is not one that we could afford, and that has not changed since the general election.

“The reason we were so blunt in opposition wasn’t simply about delivering a tough message, but about showing them the respect I think they are due, and a key ingredient of respect is honesty. Secondly, beyond pay, there are a whole range of issues about how junior doctors are treated by their employer which I am genuinely angry about – in terms of their placements, their rotations.”

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