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Doctors urged to step back from strikes for better pay offer

Striking doctors have been urged to “step back” from further industrial action so talks can take place.

Downing Street told union bosses to stop putting patients at risk and insisted discussions would not be held unless disruption planned for this month was called off.

Thousands of junior doctors are set to walk out from all services, including A&E, from 7am on July 13 until 7am on July 18 in what is believed to be the longest strike of its kind in NHS history.

Consultants will then cut their service provision to Christmas Day levels on July 20 and 21.

Almost 650,000 appointments and operations have been postponed due to the waves of industrial action since December.

READ MORE Doctors raise spectre of NHS strikes until 2025

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We obviously remain open to talks and continue to call on the junior doctors to step back from such a highly disruptive strike action, which will put patient safety at risk.

“As we did – successfully – with other health unions, we don’t think it’s right to enter into talks with the threat of strikes hanging over them. So we have asked, as we have done before, that strike action is postponed for talks to begin.”

The British Medical Association has written to Rishi Sunak, urging negotiations with junior doctors through the conciliation service Acas.

Its letter said that the Government’s refusal to talk while strikes are scheduled was “letting patients down”, adding: “We are willing to negotiate before, during and after industrial action… by refusing to negotiate while industrial action is planned, you are penalising patients. It is not too late to begin intensive talks and it is not too late to avert further strikes.”

However, No10 said: “We think we have achieved success with the Secretary of State negotiating with other unions in the past, we think that’s the right way forward.”

Talks between members of the BMA junior doctors’ committee and Health Secretary Steve Barclay broke down after the Government offered a five per cent pay rise.

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Militant union leaders had refused to budge from their figure of 35 per cent, which they said was needed to restore pay to 2008 levels.

However, union boss Dr Robert Laurenson last month suggested a long-term deal with pay rises for each year down into single figures.

Mr Barclay,  this week said the BMA’s 35 percent demands were unreasonable “given the headwinds we face from inflation”. He added: “I think there needs to be movement on both sides.” The Health Secretary said he was also “very keen to have further discussions” with consultants.

At a union meeting in Liverpool yesterday, BMA council chairman Dr Phil Banfield said the “whole of the medical workforce” could be on strike for months.

He said: “We will strike to the next general election and beyond if that is what it takes. We are prepared to negotiate in good faith but this Government is not.”

Acas boss Kate Nowicki said a team was “well prepared and ready to help” with the junior doctors.

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