[letter dated Thursday 6th April]
Rt. Hon. Steve Barclay
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
URGENT - junior doctor industrial action next week
I am writing to you having received the attached letter from Sussex NHS about the planned strike next week. I sincerely urge you to engage in urgent, good faith talks with the BMA so that this action can be avoided.
I am deeply concerned about both the state of the NHS and the impact that the action will inevitably have. Talks are essential and I do not understand why you are not at the table.
Any suggestion that the BMA's 35% pay restoration call is a precondition to talks is clearly untrue, as set out in this BMA clarification posted publicly two weeks ago: https://www.bma.org.uk/bma-media-centre/this-is-not-true-bma-responds-to-government-claim-over-35-precondition-on-junior-doctor-pay-talks
Junior doctors don't want to strike but they are telling me they feel forced to do so because they are not being listened to by Government. It is a last resort as the conditions they are working in are compromising patient safety and care on a daily basis and this is set to get worse. They are in a terrible position and now we face the strike next week which nobody wants. There is a balance of risk - the clear risks associated with the strike set against the terrible risks of allowing the underpayment and steady exodus of junior doctors to continue.
Talks must happen - I implore you at this late stage to show the leadership required of you as Secretary of State and to please get around the table with the BMA. The junior doctors' negotiating message is very straight forward: "The ask of 35% pay restoration is our starting position, and we are willing to meet with the Health Secretary anywhere, anytime, to negotiate what this might look like.”
For the sake of the NHS, junior doctors, and patients, I sincerely hope you will urgently negotiate so that next week's action can be averted.