Junior doctors have threatened to keep walking out for years to come if they do not get a 35 percent pay rise.
Hundreds gathered at a rally outside the NHS ConfedExpo conference in Manchester yesterday, on the second day of a 72-hour strike.
As thousands of NHS leaders awaited the arrival of Health Secretary Steve Barclay for a speech, the medics chanted: “Pay us fair, pay us right, we don’t want to have to strike.”
The British Medical Association’s mandate for strikes ends on August 20. If members vote to continue action in the ballot from June 19 to August 31, the resulting mandate will last to March 24 next year.
Co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee Dr Robert Laurenson said it would re-ballot again and again “until our members tell us to stop or accept whatever deal the Government is prepared to put across that is reasonable”.
He added: “There will come a time when the inevitable thing will happen, which will probably look like an indefinite withdrawal.”
Junior doctors are calling for a 35 percent pay rise to restore their pay to 2008 levels, after rejecting five percent.
Dr Laurenson said they would take a multi-year deal so the increase each year could be as low as single figures – but asked if strike action could drag on for years, he said: “I think it has to…
“This is something that has been building up for 15 years. The Government has obliterated any sense of good faith, any relationship that they have with doctors.”
The defiant unionist also suggested strikes by consultants – currently being balloted – could happen in combination with junior doctors’ strikes.
Dr Laurenson admitted members fear whether or not they will be able to progress to the next year of their training if they miss too many days of work.
But the financial impact is being mitigated by the BMA’s dedicated fund, with donations from consultants paid high rates to cover for strikers.
Mr Barclay told delegates the union refused to budge from 35 percent after “three weeks of intensive discussions”, adding: “There needs to be, always with these things, movement on both sides.”
England’s NHS medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said hot weather this week meant “we had one of our busiest days ever” across A&E.