LONDON (Reuters) -Junior and senior doctors in England plan to take joint strike action for the first time, the British Medical Association (BMA) union said on Thursday, threatening further disruption to the state-run health service in a long-running dispute over pay.
The BMA, which represents nearly 200,000 doctors in Britain, said junior doctors in England and their senior counterparts, known as consultants, would hold four days of combined walkouts – on Sept. 20 and Oct. 2-4.
Junior doctors have staged 19 days of strikes so far this year, while consultants have walked out on four, resulting in tens of thousands of cancelled appointments in the National Health Service (NHS).
In July, junior doctors were awarded a 6% pay rise and 1,250 pound ($1,583) consolidated increase as part of a broader round of public sector pay awards for 2023/24, but the union has said doctors are still facing a pay cut in real terms.
British health minister Steve Barclay said the news of the strikes was “extremely disappointing”.
“My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives, but this pay award is final so I urge the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption,” he said.
BMA consultants committee chair Vishal Sharma said: “Never before have NHS consultants and junior doctors been forced to strike together for days on end, but that is where we have been brought by this government,”
“They must act to address our pay erosion, so that the NHS is able to train the doctors that we currently have, and to ensure that we have enough consultants to train the senior doctors of the future.”
The BMA also said junior doctors had backed continuing industrial action, with about 98% of those who took part in a fresh ballot voting in favour of renewing their strike mandate for another six months.
($1 = 0.7898 pounds)
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan Writing by Sachin RavikumarEditing by Mark Potter)