(Bloomberg) -- Junior doctors in England will strike for five consecutive days over pay next month — the longest single walkout in the history of the National Health Service, according to the British Medical Association.
The strike will take place between July 13-18, the BMA said in a statement on Friday. The trade union, which represents UK doctors, said it heard nothing from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or Health Secretary Steve Barclay about reopening negotiations since the collapse of talks earlier this year.
The extended protest is a fresh blow to Sunak, who is under pressure to tackle soaring inflation that has triggered a mortgage crisis, squeezing the finances of millions of borrowers. He’s also pledged to reduce hospital waiting lists.
But hundreds of thousands of appointments have been canceled in the dispute with doctors, who are demanding a substantial pay rise, and there have been warnings about the safety of hospitals with thousands of medics off work.
“It puts patient safety and our efforts to cut waiting lists at risk, and it’s obviously extremely disappointing,” Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters at a regular briefing Friday when asked about the strike.
The government had made a “fair and reasonable opening offer” to the BMA, Blain said, but “they chose to end the talks.” He said ministers were open to fresh talks if doctors called off their walkout.
The BMA said junior doctors, who are qualified doctors with as many as eight years’ experience but are still in clinical training, were being “inundated” with opportunities to work abroad, including in Australia. The BMA blamed government “neglect” of the medical workforce, pointing out that the striking doctors are paid £14 ($17.80) an hour.
With a general election expected next year, the prime minister is facing growing calls to get a grip on ongoing strikes that have been hitting public services for months. Some 20,000 railway workers will also walk out over pay on July 20, 22 and 29, the RMT union said Thursday.
(Updates with government response in fourth paragraph.)
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