Health secretary Steve Barclay has been branded “arrogant” after he accused junior doctors of “suddenly” walking away from talks over pay and conditions.
Junior doctors are planning to stage the biggest walkout in NHS history later this month with a five-day strike from 13-18 July.
Sky News' Sophy Ridge questioned the government's approach to these striking workers. "It seems a bit arrogant if you won't even talk to them," she suggested.
“We were in the middle of discussing some of those wider non-pay issues,” Barclay replied. “It was the junior doctors suddenly who walked away.” The British Medical Association (BMA) has said it is willing to continue talks.
Barclay’s comments angered some on Twitter. One person said: “Why don't you get around the table & talk to the junior doctors now, as it seems a bit arrogant that you won't even talk to them now?”
Another person said: “Well that’s a blatant lie. They’ve already compromised and given an open invitation for more talks. He’s useless.”
One commenter said: “Discuss the reason why they walked out, that's if they actually did and try to stop the strikes before they happen rather than demanding they call them off first.”
Barclay refused to be drawn when challenged over whether a 6 per cent pay rise for the NHS would be acceptable. “These will be discussions that I have on behalf of the health workforce with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, that the Education Secretary will have on behalf of teachers, and other ministers will have across government, so we will have those and we’ll make announcements in due course.”
The health secretary added that the government had recognised the needs of staff and the needs of the wider economy. He said that was “exactly what we have done with the Agenda for Change, which is why not only did we apply the full pay review body recommendations, we actually went further in terms of a lump sum this time because we hugely recognise the pressure that NHS staff have been under”.
“Of course we need to look at the wider pressures in terms of inflation… we need to look at these things in the round,” he added.
Co-chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We have always been willing to continue talking.
“It was the government who cancelled our remaining meetings after we called for strike action, but we have made it clear that we will call strikes off if (Rishi) Sunak makes a credible offer.
“A 5 per cent offer when inflation is in double digits is yet another real-terms pay cut, and would only worsen the already 26% real-terms pay cut we’ve endured prior to that.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Steve Barclay has been negotiating in bad faith.”
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