Union barons are “intent on maintaining a militant stance” over pay talks for striking junior doctors, Steve Barclay warned yesterday.
The Health Secretary said the British Medical Association has taken an “unrealistic position” which could lead to as many as 250,000 operations being cancelled this week.
The NHS will prioritise emergency, critical and neonatal care, as well as maternity and trauma services, but thousands of appointments – including for cancer care – will be postponed.
Mr Barclay said the BMA is effectively demanding a £20,000 pay rise for junior doctors.
Nearly 50,000 junior doctors are due to walk out between 6.59am on 11 April and 6.59am on 15 April in what threatens to be one of the most disruptive strikes in the NHS’s history.
Some hospitals face nearly 100 hours without up to half of their medical workforce while up to a quarter of a million appointments and operations could be postponed.
Mr Barclay has blamed the BMA for the breakdown in talks between the two parties, saying the union’s demands had prevented “serious talks over pay”.
The Health Secretary said he “valued the important work these doctors do every day” but that their pay demands were “widely out of step with pay settlements in other parts of the public sector at a time of considerable economic pressure on our country”.
He said: “Unfortunately, the decision by BMA junior doctors’ leaders to maintain an unrealistic position meant we were unable to make progress with talks.”
“It seems they are intent on maintaining a militant stance rather than working with the government and NHS management to meet the best interests of their members and of patients.”
The disruption could last up to 10 or 11 days, with strike set between the Easter bank holiday and another weekend
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis warned of “unparalleled levels of disruption”, adding, “we are very concerned about the potential severity of impact on patients and services across the country.”
“This time the action immediately follows a four-day bank holiday weekend, which is already difficult as many staff are taking much-needed holiday, and it will be more extensive than ever before with hospitals facing nearly 100 hours without up to half of the NHS medical workforce.”
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