Steve Barclay calls for ‘movement on both sides’ in junior doctors pay row

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The Health Secretary has conceded there needs to be “movement on both sides” amid the dispute between the Government and junior doctors.

But Steve Barclay said the demand for a 35% pay rise was “unreasonable” and could “move to 49% if you added in next year”.

He insisted the Government’s door remains open, but accused the British Medical Association’s Junior Doctors Committee of refusing to budge from its 35% pay demand, despite bringing an intermediary to negotiations.

Junior doctors in England are set to stage a 72-hour walkout next week, starting at 7am on June 14.

“It’s not the sort of pay rise that most of your viewers, I’m sure, themselves are receiving, so I don’t think 35% is reasonable.

“We hugely value the work that our junior doctors do, the pressures that they’ve been under from the pandemic, the wider pressures that the NHS has been under – so we massively really value the work of the junior doctors, but I don’t think a 35% pay rise is a reasonable demand. That’s really what we need to see some movement on.

“They asked if we could bring in an intermediary – a very senior NHS leader, Kathy McLean, that the Government agreed to – and yet, notwithstanding that, they still refuse to move from their demand for a 35% pay rise, so there needs to be movement on both sides.

“We hugely value the work that the junior doctors do, but to date, they haven’t been willing to move at all from 35%, and in fact, actually move to 49% if you added in next year.”

He told LBC radio: “We had around three weeks of talks with them. They requested that we bring in an intermediary – a very senior NHS leader, Kathy McLean, a very respected figure which the Government agreed to – but notwithstanding that, the Junior Doctors Committee refused to move at all from their request for a 35% pay rise.

Steve Barclay
Steve Barclay (James Manning/PA)

“We want to work with the junior doctors, we massively value the contribution they make – they are key to our elective recovery and getting our waiting times down.

“But a 35% pay rise, I don’t think is fair and reasonable, and that’s been the sticking point so far.”

Asked if his door is open to negotiations, he said: “Yeah, very much so, and in fact, it was the junior doctors that walked away from the talks by calling another strike, which is hugely regrettable, and also refused to move, notwithstanding, as I say, the Government meeting their request to bring in an intermediary to help conduct those negotiations.

“Obviously the Government is very keen to engage with them, but we can’t do so whilst (they are) insisting on further strikes.

“Obviously there is an impact on patients when these strikes take place, and we want to work constructively with them.

“But there’s got to be movement on both sides and the Government has signalled its willingness to move. To date, the Junior Doctors Committee has refused to move at all from its 35% demand, and that’s really been the sticking point.”

Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: “With junior doctor pay having eroded by 26% in the last 15 years, and with double digit inflation this year, the 5% offer the Government made would have amounted to yet more pay cuts.

“That is in no way a fair or reasonable offer and will not help stem the exodus of junior doctors from the NHS.

“The Health Secretary can come to us with a credible offer at any time – preventing any future strike action sits firmly within the gift of the Government.”

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