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Barts Health junior doctors urge government to listen on last day of strike

Striking medics at Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital said the ball was in the government’s court on pay restoration, reports Marco Marcelline

Striking medics on the picket line at Royal London Hospital today

Junior doctors in East London called for the government to listen to their demands for a restoration of pay back to 2008 levels. The British Medical Association (BMA) ended its record six-day strike at NHS hospitals today (8th January).

At the picket line this morning, striking junior doctors at the Barts’ NHS Trust’s Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel told the Echo that they wanted an increase in pay and better working conditions. In East London, Barts Health NHS Trust manages Royal London, Whipps Cross, and Newham General Hospital.

Sophie Croft, a paediatric doctor, said the strike “wasn’t really just about money”. “[This strike] is about people recognising that we are real human beings. We weren’t born just to provide a service, we’re here to live our own lives as well. We want to be able to do that and not have the government feel that they are entitled to our labour.”

Last summer, Westminster agreed to offer an average pay rise of 8.8% for junior doctors for the 2023/24 financial year. The uplift was higher for first year medics who were handed a 10.3% boost to their average pay.

A later offer of a 3% top-up rise by Health Secretary Victoria Atkins was slammed as “completely inadequate” by the co-chairs of BMA’s junior doctor committee, Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi who pushed for a walkout.

Sophie pointed to the markedly different situation experienced by her NHS colleagues in Scotland, where there have been no strikes after 82% of voting BMA members in August accepted an offer by the Scottish Government for a 12.4% pay rise for 2023/24. Sophie said, if offered a similar pay rise to that accepted by the BMA in Scotland, she would accept it. She also commented that there was a sharp divergence in approach exhibited by the respective Scottish and UK Governments on the issue of pay restoration.


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Last summer, Westminster agreed to offer an average pay rise of 8.8% for junior doctors for the 2023/24 financial year. The uplift was higher for first year medics who were handed a 10.3% boost to their average pay.

Striking junior doctors Tatyana Sarneki (left) and Sophie Croft (right)

Amid the recent strike calls, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins offered a further 3% top up rise to junior doctors.

The BMA argues that the 35% pay rise, which it is also prepared to accept, if it was spread over “a number of years”, would return junior doctor salaries to the level they were at in 2008, due to increases in pay since then having been eroded by inflation.

Compared to her previous working life in Germany, Tatyana Sarneki, a junior doctor at Royal London Hospital, said that things were more chaotic in England, with the NHS being inefficient and work not being very flexible.

Tatyana, who also told the Echo that she had begun to tentatively look for jobs in tech as she pondered a career switch, said: “In Germany we were able to do our rota. If you wanted to pick up more night shifts, you could pick up more night shifts and earn more money. [The same] is not possible here. You have the rota that you have to follow and if you want to get a day off, you have to swap your night shifts with someone else.” The situation means that if a doctor cannot find someone to swap with, they cannot forgo a shift.

Despite the government’s reticence to agree to a pay cut, Sophie remained hopeful about a pay restoration deal. As the cold January air bit, Sophie said: “As we saw yesterday… they managed to call off the tube [strike], right? It’s in [the government’s] hands now.”

Barts Health NHS Trust was contacted for comment.


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