- By Michael Shiels McNamee
- BBC News
The health minister said the union representing junior doctors appeared “intent on maintaining a hard line” that “impedes serious conversations about pay”.
The union is calling for a 35% wage increase to offset 15 years of wage increases below inflation rates.
England’s junior doctors are set to begin a four-day strike from Tuesday.
Barclay said he saw “no prospect of serious and constructive talks” unless the strike was called off and the Bahrain Monetary Agency changed its wage demands.
Junior physicians are below consultant level, and may have many years of experience in a hospital or general practice environment.
Barclay said demands for payment by junior doctors were “not in line with pay settlements in other parts of the public sector” and claimed some doctors could be paid an extra £20,000 a year if pay demands were met.
The health minister also said he appreciated the “important work these doctors do every day” and wanted to “see a fair deal that increases their salaries”.
In his article, Barclay wrote that the four-day strike “threatens to cause much greater disruption than previous strikes in the NHS recently”.
He said: “It is extremely disappointing that this industrial action by the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee has been timed to cause maximum disruption to both patients and other NHS staff.”
“Not only does the 96-hour strike come immediately after the Easter break, but it is also longer than previous strikes. It coincides with the school holidays, Ramadan and Easter.”
While making contingency plans, he said, “a major disruption is inevitable in the coming days.”
Health directors estimated that up to a quarter of a million operations and appointments could be delayed as a result of the strike.
The BMA represents 173,000 members across the UK, and has seen a recent increase in membership due to More junior doctors join.
Speaking to the BBC, the vice chair of the BMA’s Junior Physicians Committee, Dr Mike Greenhalgh, said falling wages had caused a “real recruitment and retention crisis” in the health service.
The strike will take place from 07:00 GMT on Tuesday, and will last until 07:00 GMT on Saturday.
During last month’s strike, hospitals hired counsellors to provide cover, but it is estimated that a quarter of them were on leave due to the Easter break.
The BMA says it won’t make any exceptions for services, but there are plans to protect patients, which could include pulling junior doctors from the picket line if individual hospitals report that lives are in imminent danger.
Meanwhile, the NHS’ national medical director has warned that strikes will create “unparalleled levels of disruption”.
Professor Sir Stephen Boyce said: “This time the action comes immediately after a four-day bank holiday, which is already difficult as many staff are taking much-needed leave.”
“It will be more comprehensive than ever with hospitals facing nearly 100 hours without up to half of the NHS medical workforce.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said the government was working with NHS England to put in place contingency plans to protect patient safety during the strike.
A spokesperson said the NHS would prioritize resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, maternity and neonatal care and trauma.
Before the strikes, which begin on Tuesday, Mr Barclay was urged to meet with union representatives at the bank’s weekend to try to resolve the issue.
Speaking earlier, Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-director of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said the union wanted to make sure Mr Barclay was “serious about wage erosion” – but added that it had not put a credible offer on the table yet. .
“All we’re asking for is a credible offer that shows us he’s serious, and that we can start a negotiation track to try to address the wage cut on real terms,” he said.
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