The NHS was preparing for a three-day strike by junior doctors

Young doctors in England will go on strike for three consecutive days from Monday, in the widest disruption to the NHS and patients since a spate of industrial action by healthcare workers began in December.

Unlike nurses and ambulance workers, who maintained emergency and other critical coverage during the strikes, the junior doctors have not agreed to similar arrangements, leaving hospital chiefs struggling to maintain services.

This week includes multiple strikes by workers demanding higher wages amid the cost of living crisis, including teachers in England and more than 100,000 civil servants who are set to quit on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget day.

Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents senior health managers across England, said industrial action by young doctors was “a different order of magnitude” than other strikes the service has seen since December.

He added this was partly due to length, but also the lack of so-called exemptions, meaning critical services would have to be covered by advisers and other NHS staff.

Hartley said non-urgent treatment of patients would be significantly reduced and warned of “there may be some risk of urgent cases that may need to be postponed if the consultant is unavailable because they are covering junior doctors”.

The British Medical Association, the union representing junior doctors, said in the event of a “major and unforeseeable mass casualty event or major incident unrelated to the provision of NHS services and which cannot be accommodated within existing resources”. had agreed a procedure with NHS England by which members could be asked to return to work.

In a BMA election among young doctors last month, in which more than three-quarters participated, 98 percent voted to go on strike to secure a 35 percent pay rise.

The BMA said salaries have been cut by more than a quarter since 2008, even as workloads and waiting lists are at record highs.

On Sunday, the BMA launched an advertising campaign, noting that sandwich chain Pret A Manger had announced it would pay its staff up to £14.10 an hour, while a doctor-in-training earned £14.09. “Thanks to this government, you can serve more coffee than save patients,” says the BMA advertisement.

Junior doctors who belong to the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, a smaller union, are also on strike Monday through Wednesday.

On Saturday, BMA leaders rejected an eleventh-hour offer from Health Secretary Steve Barclay to join “formal pay negotiations on the same basis accepted by other health unions, including the cancellation of next week’s strike.”

Vivek Trivedi, left, and Rob Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee © Yui Mok/PA

dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr. Robert Laurenson, co-chair of BMA’s Young Doctors Committee in England, said: ‘Until we get a credible [pay] Offer, we are unable to retrieve it.”

The Royal College of Nursing, Unison, GMB and Unite are in talks with ministers over pay rises and have now suspended strikes.

Rishi Sunak said: “It is very disappointing that the junior doctors’ union does not cooperate with the government.

“We are actually having a constructive dialogue with other unions who have accepted our offer to come in and talk. . . I urge the young doctors to follow this example.”

Barclay said he wanted to “find a fair [pay] Settlement recognizing the crucial role of junior doctors and the broader economic pressures the UK is facing”.

Meanwhile, teachers in England are set to go on strike on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Department of Education under increasing pressure to improve its salary offer for 2022-23 members of the National Education Union.

Strikes organized by teachers’ unions in Scotland and Wales have largely been suspended after the Scottish and Welsh governments improved their wage offers. More than 100,000 civil servants represented by the PCS union will march out on Wednesday, Budget Day, to demand higher wages.

Railways, meanwhile, are expected to face fresh disruptions on Thursday and Saturday when members of the RMT union disembark at 14 rail operators.

The strikes continue despite a breakthrough in the RMT’s separate dispute with infrastructure owner Network Rail. RMT members vote to accept an improved Network Rail payment offer. The NHS was preparing for a three-day strike by junior doctors

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