Intended for healthcare professionals


Make us a credible offer and we’ll suspend strike, junior doctors’ leaders tell Barclay

BMJ 2023 ; 381 doi: (Published 06 April 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;381:p806
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. The BMJ

Junior doctors’ leaders have said that they will call off planned strike action next week if England’s health secretary, Steve Barclay, shows that he is serious about pay restoration and is willing to negotiate to resolve 15 years of pay erosion.

Junior doctors in England are due to strike for four days from Tuesday 11 April, citing Barclay’s failure to make a credible pay offer. 1

Vivek Trivedi and Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, received a response from Barclay on 5 April, a week after they wrote to the health secretary.

Throughout the dispute over pay there has been a battle over whether the BMA is setting preconditions to talks. After the BMA announced its latest strike action in late March, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that it was “unreasonable” for the BMA to place a precondition on talks of a 35% pay rise.

However, Laurenson responded in a tweet, “Not true @SteveBarclay. No preconditions from us. Let’s meet next week?”

In its response to the latest letter from Barclay, which The BMJ has not seen, the BMA repeated that Barclay was misrepresenting their opening position as a precondition to talks when they had set no preconditions.

Contingency plans

In a statement Trivedi and Laurenson said, “Today we are making a serious and substantial offer to Steve Barclay, which means it is within his gift to see next week’s strike action suspended. If he puts a credible offer on the table that shows he is serious about addressing doctors losing more than 26% of their pay in real terms and which we believe can form the basis of negotiation, we will suspend next week’s action.

“This is the best way he can show he is serious about rapidly settling this dispute—something which he claimed in his letter to us, was his aim.”

They said that they expected an offer to be a starting point in discussions, rather than a final deal.

“But until the minister’s office makes that offer and agrees to meet with us, we cannot consider stopping the strike action and starting negotiations,” they added. “The ball is now very much in the secretary of state’s court. Is he willing to table a serious offer we can consider? Or does he want to sit in his office and continue to claim we have set preconditions which we have not.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said, “Four days of strikes by junior doctors will risk patient safety and cause further disruption and postponed treatments. The BMA’s demand for a 35% pay rise is unreasonable and unaffordable.

“We urge them to come to the table with a realistic approach so we can find a way forward, as we have done with other health unions, which balances fairly rewarding junior doctors for their hard work with meeting the government’s ambition to halve inflation.”

The spokesperson said that NHS England was putting in place contingency plans to protect patient safety during the strike action, prioritising emergency treatment, critical care, neonatal care, and trauma.