Britain’s biggest medical union has warned health secretary Steve Barclay that “time is ticking” to prevent next week’s planned strike by young NHS doctors, challenging him to make a pay offer “credible” to start negotiations.

The British Medical Association gambit follows a claim by health leaders that the four-day action, which falls during the Easter school holidays when staff ranks are already empty, could threaten “basic patient safety.” “. Health trusts across the country are set to deploy consultants, nurses and other staff in an effort to maintain vital services.

Young doctors make up about half of the medical workforce in England’s taxpayer-funded healthcare system. The BMA argues that his salary has been cut by more than a quarter in real terms since 2008.

The doctors publicly called for a 35 percent pay increase but in a letter to Barclay on Thursday suggested a “credible offer” could tempt them to the negotiating table and denied their claim they had committed to that figure as a condition. previous. to enter into conversations.

Throwing the gauntlet back to Barclay in a statement on Friday, the co-chairs of the BMA junior medical committee, Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Rob Laurenson, said: “Even at this late stage we are ready to consider any offer that the minister present”. — which, if credible, could mean calling off the strike — and we urge you to do so.”

Challenging the health secretary to come up with an offer “that really shows you are serious about tackling young doctors who lose more than 26 percent of their salary in real terms,” ​​they added: “The clock is ticking, Mr. Barclay . We are ready to sit around the table, so make a credible offer to start negotiations and stop the strikes next week.”

A three-day strike by junior doctors last month resulted in more than 175,000 appointments and procedures being postponed, underscoring the strain the action is placing on the NHS as it seeks to clear a record high backlog of more than 7 million patients waiting for non-medical services. urgent Care.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health leaders in England, accepted that the chances of next week’s strikes being called off were now “little” but urged the government and the BMA, as well as the Association of Smaller Hospital Consultants and Specialists, whose members are also amazing, “do everything possible to find common ground and negotiate constructively.”

An anonymous health leader was quoted by the NHS Confederation as saying that “basic patient safety will be compromised”, and that emergency departments are likely to be “totally overwhelmed”.

Dr Layla McCay, policy director for the NHS Confederation, said health leaders were “bracing for the most significant attacks in a decade with many aspects of patient care on a razor’s edge.”

The health and social care department said strikes by young doctors “will put patient safety at risk and cause further interruptions and postponed treatment.”

He described the BMA’s demand for a 35 per cent payment as “unreasonable” and added: “We will not negotiate in public either; Conversations must be private with both parties respecting the confidentiality of the process, as has been the case with other health unions. ”

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