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Junior doctors: Streeting begins talks to avert more strikes

17 minutes ago

By Michelle RobertsDigital health editor, BBC News

Reuters Wes StreetingReuters

Mr Streeting was speaking at the Tony Blair Institute Future of Britain conference

Face-to-face talks between junior doctors unhappy over pay and the new health and secretary are set to begin.

Wes Streeting has already said the government cannot afford or commit to the 35% rise the doctors want.

But there is renewed optimism an agreement might be reached to avoid more strikes and disruption for patients.

Tens of thousands of appointments were postponed during the most recent walkout by doctors, earlier this month.

The long-running dispute has seen 11 rounds of strikes by junior doctors in England put pressure on an already overburdened NHS, with more than seven million patients on waiting lists for treatment.

The doctors say their pay has fallen in recent years, as a result of inflation, and have called for a rise to restore what they say they are due.

‘Reset moment’

They received a rise averaging nearly 9% in the last financial year.

But the British Medical Association, representing the junior doctors, last year walked out of talks in which an extra 3% top-up was discussed.

It has since said it is willing to have the 35% pay rise phased in, after initially calling for it in one go, but government stands firm.

Mr Streeting told the Tony Blair Institute Future of Britain conference: “This is an important reset moment I think in the relationship between junior doctors and their government.”

Labour had been very clear in opposition the headline pay demand was unaffordable – and that “has not changed”.

Junior doctors deserved respect and being honest with them was key to that.

‘Cutting waiting’

The new government faced a number of other “burning deck” issues left by the Conservatives, Mr Streeting said.

Top of the list is reducing patient waits.

“Cutting waiting times is my immediate focus and number-one priority,” Mr Streeting said.

Since December 2022, a number of NHS staff groups have taken strike action – including nurses, other doctor groups, physiotherapists and paramedics – causing the postponement of nearly 1.5 million appointments, procedures and operations at an estimated cost of more than £3bn.

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