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Cancel these walkouts and together we can help the NHS to thrive, says Victoria Atkins, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care


The NHS belongs to all of us, not just the junior doctors committee of the British Medical Association.

As Health Secretary I am focused on patient safety and good care whilst ensuring reasonable settlements for NHS workers and the taxpayer.

The five days of strikes that junior doctors are currently taking will put enormous pressure on the NHS and hamper conditions for fruitful negotiation.

We have already given junior doctors a pay increase of up to 10.3 per cent this year. We made clear further investment was available.

Disappointingly, the committee refused to put this offer to members and pressed ahead with strikes. 

The five days of strikes that junior doctors are currently taking will put enormous pressure on the NHS and hamper conditions for fruitful negotiation

The five days of strikes that junior doctors are currently taking will put enormous pressure on the NHS and hamper conditions for fruitful negotiation

As Health Secretary I am focused on patient safety and good care whilst ensuring reasonable settlements for NHS workers and the taxpayer

As Health Secretary I am focused on patient safety and good care whilst ensuring reasonable settlements for NHS workers and the taxpayer

Of course, I want to find a reasonable solution and end these strikes. However, the BMA’s action does not signal they are ready to be reasonable.

When strikes are imminent, my priority is to support the wider health and care system to keep patients safe.

A case in point are concerns around urgent cancer surgery which could be impacted on strike days. 

have been cancelled during their strikes – causing harm and anguish to those expecting to receive potentially life-saving care. 

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national cancer director, has already confirmed ‘the NHS is working incredibly hard to maintain provision’ to avoid risk of harm to patients. 

‘That’s why we are in active discussions with the BMA to agree safety mitigations… people should continue to come forward, either for checks, or their appointment, unless told otherwise.’ 

In light of this and the wider impact, with more than 1.3million appointments already cancelled or rescheduled so far due to industrial action, it is my hope and expectation they call off their action and return to the table. 

This will allow us to find a way forward for patients and the NHS, built around reasonable expectations.

It’s important to stress any new settlement is not limited to pay increases. It’s not the only thing on junior doctors’ minds. 

When I speak to constituents and NHS colleagues, what comes up frequently is their desire to feel valued. 

They want access to high quality training, the opportunity to diversify into other specialisms, and the flexibility to manage shift patterns which promote a healthy work/life balance.

These are the things the NHS can do better. A strong and productive NHS supports patients and staff, as well as contributing to a stronger economy.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a central ambition of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan is to make the NHS a better place to work for all our workforce.

I want to find a fair and reasonable settlement for patients, junior doctors, and the taxpayer as well as improving working conditions for all staff.

So, it really is about more than pay. To make lasting progress on all fronts, I ask the junior doctors committee to cancel their action, return to the table with reasonable expectations, and together we will find a way for patients, clinicians and our NHS to thrive.



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