Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Junior doctors: Health minister brands NHS ‘broken’ ahead of talks

By Maria Zaccaro, BBC News

PA Junior doctors protesting opposite Downing Street, London. PA

The new Health Secretary Wes Streeting has branded the NHS “broken” in his first day in the job, as he says negotiations with junior doctors will begin next week.

The Ilford North MP warned the health service is “going through the biggest crisis in its history”, and it cannot be fixed overnight.

Mr Streeting said he spoke with the British Medical Association (BMA) on Friday ahead of starting fresh talks in an attempt to end a long-running pay dispute.

The BMA described the call as “positive”. It has repeatedly asked for a 35% rise, to make up for what it says are 15 years of below-inflation pay rises.

Mr Streeting said Labour, which is in power for the first time in 14 years, had promised to begin negotiations as a matter of urgency “and that is what we are doing”.

“From today, the policy of this department is that the NHS is broken,” he said.

His comments came shortly after Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer appointed Labour MPs to key cabinet positions as the party secured a landslide election victory.

EPA  Wes Streeting smiling as he walks down a street.EPA

Mr Streeting, who held his seat by a 528-vote margin, said the new government would be “honest” about the challenges it faced.

He added: “When we said that patients are being failed on a daily basis, it wasn’t political rhetoric, but the daily reality faced by millions.

“Previous governments have not been willing to admit these simple facts. But in order to cure an illness, you must first diagnose it.”

In its manifesto, Labour promised to deliver an extra 40,000 operations, scans and appointments a week in England – two million a year – by introducing more weekend services, as well as turning to the private sector.

It said the money would come from cracking down on non-dom tax arrangements.

The BBC has contacted the Conservatives for comment.

Junior doctors in England last went on strike at the end of June in what was the 11th walkout in their long-running pay dispute.

Mr Streeting previously said he would not meet the 35% pay rise demanded by the BMA. But he said there was “space for a discussion” on pay, as well as negotiations on how to improve working conditions for medics in training.

Junior doctors make up nearly half the medical workforce in the NHS. Two-thirds of them are BMA members.

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