Striking junior doctors will bring the NHS to a standstill days before Christmas as they plot 72 hours of carnage.
Struggling hospitals will also be rocked by six consecutive days of British Medical Association (BMA) action in the New Year, marking the longest ever walk-out in the NHS’s 75-year history.
The action, starting on December 20 and January 3rd, respectively, will coincide with one of the traditionally busiest periods.
Pay talks between the militant union and Government have broken down, despite hopes of progress.
Ever since they kicked off the never-ending wave of strikes last winter, BMA chiefs have pushed for a salary rise of 35 per cent for junior doctors.
The union claimed the Government’s newest offer amounted to an additional 3 per cent, on top of an 9.8 per cent rise already given. It said the lack of a ‘credible offer’ forced it into another round of strikes.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the Government would ‘immediately look to come back to the table’ if the devastating strikes were called off.
Junior doctors in England have voted to stage fresh strikes in December and January after talks between the Government and British Medical Association broke down
Official figures also show waiting lists for routine NHS procedures also shot up to a a new record high, with around 6.5million patients in England waiting for 7.77million appointments and procedures in England
The BMA union is calling for a full walkout of all junior doctors in the days leading up to Christmas and again in the new year. Pictured: Health workers on the picket line outside St Thomas’s Hospital in London in September this year
Junior doctors in England will strike from 7am on December 20 to 7am on December 23 and from 7am on January 3 to 7am on January 9.
Ms Atkins said: ‘It is disappointing that, despite significant progress, the BMA junior doctors committee have walked away from negotiations and declared new strikes, which will result in more disruption for patients and extra pressure on NHS services and staff as we enter a busy winter period, risking patient safety.
‘I have been clear that I respect the work of doctors in training and want to work with them to settle this dispute.
‘We have agreed a fair and reasonable offer with the BMA’s consultants committee which is being put to members for vote following constructive talks.’
She added: ‘If the junior doctors committee call off their strikes, we will immediately look to come back to the table to continue negotiations.’
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairmen of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, said: ‘We have been clear from the outset of these talks that we needed to move at pace and if we did not have a credible offer, we would be forced to call strikes.
‘After five weeks of intense talks, the Government was unable to present a credible offer on pay by the deadline.
‘Instead, we were offered an additional 3 per cent, unevenly spread across doctors’ grades, which would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year.’
The pair added: ‘It is clear the Government is still not prepared to address the real-terms pay cut doctors have experienced since 2008.
‘It is a great shame that even though the approach was more constructive, there was not enough on offer to shape a credible deal, which we hoped would end the dispute.
‘Without enough progress by the deadline, we have no choice but to take action that demonstrates doctors are as determined as ever in reversing their pay cuts.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins (pictured in November) said that the Government would ‘immediately look to come back to the table’ if the junior doctors’ strikes were called off
‘However, we can still avoid the need for these strikes. We will be ready and willing any time the Government wants to talk. If a credible offer can be presented the day before, or even during any action, these strikes can be cancelled.
‘The approach from Ms Atkins and the team has been productive but ultimately that alone is not sufficient to make up for 15 years of declining pay.
‘A year after our dispute started, we are still too far from turning the tide on plummeting pay, morale, and retention of doctors.
‘Rather than waste more time and money and have further disruption to patient care, the Health Secretary needs to make a credible offer now.’
In the wake of Covid and never-ending strike action, waiting lists have soared to an all-time high.
NHS figures show 7.8million patients are currently needing routine treatment, up on the 4.5m logged pre-pandemic.
Insiders fear the dire situation will likely only get worse with winter looming and the constant threat of fresh strikes.
The strikes come as waiting lists for routine NHS procedures have shot up to another record high. At Prime Minister’s Questions last month, Labour Leader Keir Starmer said the NHS waiting list stood at 7.8 million – half a million more than in January
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured today) pledged at the start of the year to cut waiting lists and newly appointed Ms Atkins has made tackling the disputes with doctors one of her top priorities
Ms Atkins last week said putting a stop to industrial action would prevent the NHS from having to reschedule appointments during the walkouts (file photo of an NHS hospital ward)
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘This is the outcome that trust leaders were dreading.
‘This will be the longest strike in NHS history during the busiest and toughest time of the year for the NHS.
‘These strikes will undermine efforts to cut waiting lists further, they’ll have a serious knock-on effect on services right across the NHS.
‘As we have seen with previous walkouts, patients will once again pay the price through renewed delays and disruption.
‘We know this walkout will be especially hard for trusts to manage, given lots of staff will have annual leave booked over the festive period…
‘It’s not too late for the Government and unions to sort out this dispute and prevent more strikes.’
Strikes are estimated to have cost the NHS more than £1.3billion already and more than one million delayed patient appointments.
The Prime Minister pledged at the start of the year to cut waiting lists and newly appointed Ms Atkins has made tackling the disputes with doctors one of her top priorities.
Her language has proved markedly different to that of predecessor Steve Barclay, who referred to the BMA as having a politically ‘militant stance’.
Last week the Government agreed a deal with consultants in England to potentially end a long and bitter dispute over pay.
Officials refused to budge on their original offer, worth around the 6 per cent mark, for months.
But now the Government has vowed to give an additional 4.95 per cent ‘investment in pay’ that will see consultants — who earn six-figure salaries, on average — get up to an extra £20,000.
The deal on the table for consultants is being voted on by BMA members.
The junior doctors are understood to be seeking a 35 per pay rise, but Ms Atkins has said the Government cannot meet such requests.