The increasingly bitter pay dispute will lead to a three-day strike by junior doctors in England next month.
After voting overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action earlier this month, the British Medical Association (BMA) declared that the doctors had “no option” but to go on strike beginning March 13.
The BMA stated that junior doctors have requested an urgent meeting with health secretary Steve Barclay twice in the past week, but added that no time has been set.
The BMA reported that a meeting with Department of Health employees earlier this week had produced no appreciable advancement and that the minister had declined to attend.
The co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, said patients and the public alike need to know the blame for the strike action “lies squarely at the government’s door.”
They said: “Make no mistake, this strike was absolutely in the government’s gift to avert; they know it, we know it and our patients also need to know it.
“We have tried, since last summer, to get each health secretary we have had around the negotiating table. We have written many times, and, even as late as yesterday, we were hopeful Steve Barclay would recognise the need to meet with us to find a workable solution that could have averted this strike.
“We have not been told why we have not been offered intensive negotiations or what we need to do for the government to begin negotiations with us. We are left with no option but to proceed with this action.
“The fact that so many junior doctors in England have voted yes for strike action should leave Ministers in absolutely no doubt about what we have known for a long time and have been trying to tell them: we are demoralised, angry, and no longer willing to work for wages that have seen a real terms decline of over 26% in the past 15 years.
“This, together with the stress and exhaustion of working in an NHS in crisis, has brought us to this moment, brought us to a 72-hour walk out.
“How, in all conscience, can the Health Secretary continue to put his head in the sand and hope that by not meeting with us, this crisis of his government’s making, will somehow just disappear?
“It won’t, and patients and the public will continue to feel the brunt of his inaction, until he starts to negotiate with us and we agree a deal that truly values junior doctors and pays us what we are worth.”
The British Dental Association announced that dentists working in hospitals employed under the junior contract will join the 72-hour walkout after voting for industrial action.
British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch said: “This small but important group of dentists are working to the same contracts as their medical colleagues, and like them are not worth a penny less than they were 15 years ago.
“Our members will down drills until the government comes back to the table with a serious offer.”