Junior doctors welcome 'positive' meeting with new health secretary Wes Streeting - but do not rule out further strikes

Junior doctors have refused to rule out further strike action despite having a "positive" meeting with the new health secretary.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) met Wes Streeting on Tuesday morning where they discussed the industrial action junior doctors have been on for more than a year over pay and working conditions.

Speaking after the meeting with Mr Streeting, Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, who chair the BMA union's junior doctors' committee, said the meeting was "positive".

"We were pleased to be able to meet the secretary of state and his team so quickly after the general election - it signifies the urgency that they're placing on resolving this dispute," Dr Trivedi said.

However, when asked, the pair did not rule out further strike action.

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"We're confident that the meeting today was positive, and we've already agreed to meet again next week with the secretary of state to further discuss how we can progress," they said.

Mr Streeting has identified the junior doctors' strike as one of the key issues he needs to fix on assuming his new cabinet role.

Bringing the current NHS waiting list down - which currently stands at 6.3 million patients - was one of Sir Keir Starmer's six first steps for government outlined before the election was called.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Mr Streeting said: "Patients, staff, and the NHS have already paid too high a price due to strike action, and I'm optimistic that we can bring this to an end.

"It's not going to be easy. This government has inherited the worst set of economic circumstances since the Second World War. But both sides have shown willingness to negotiate and we are determined to do the hard work required to find a way through.

"I am angry about the way the junior doctors are treated in the NHS, and there is a lot we can do to change that.

"Junior doctors are the future of the health service and I want to work with them to turn around our NHS."

He added: "I'm looking forward to meeting them again next week to discuss what went wrong in past talks, and to make further progress on finding a solution to this dispute."

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While in government, the Conservatives managed to resolve pay disputes involving nurses and consultants, but junior doctors and previous Tory ministers remained at loggerheads over a pay deal.

Junior doctors accepted a 9% pay rise last summer but negotiations broke down over an additional 3% increase. The BMA eventually wants to see junior doctors awarded a 35% increase.

Pressure to resolve dispute

The meeting comes amid pressure to resolve the dispute given the BMA's mandate for industrial action ends in September. The union is expected to hold another ballot in August.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Streeting said he would "give it a good go" when asked if he would reach a pay agreement with the junior doctors to end industrial action.

But appearing at an event at the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) ahead of his morning meeting, Mr Streeting warned the government could not afford the 35% pay rise the junior doctors were demanding.

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Dr Laurenson said after the meeting that Mr Streeting was "very interested in learning what went wrong".

"And I think that bodes well because that's not a question that's ever been asked of us before, which has been a problem for being able to get around any kind of dispute.

"So he was listening, and I just hope that they learnt."