Labour’s Streeting Seeks to End Junior Doctor Strikes in England on ‘Day One’

(Bloomberg) -- Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, urged England’s junior doctors to cancel a round of strikes planned before the UK’s general election next month, and pledged to seek a compromise to end more than a year of industrial action from “day one” if his party wins the July 4 vote.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“If there’s a Labour government on the fifth of July, one of my first calls will be to the junior doctors’ representatives,” Streeting told BBC TV in an interview. “I’ll be asking the department straight away to initiate the urgent resumption of talks so we can negotiate an end to the strikes once and for all.”

Streeting — whose Labour Party leads the governing Conservatives by around 20 points in recent polls and looks set for power — is seeking to draw a line under 15 months of damaging strikes by junior doctors that’s led to more than 1.4 million appointments being rescheduled, increasing pressure on near-record National Health Service waiting lists.

Last week, the latest NHS data showed waiting lists rose by more than 33,000 to 7.57 million in April — almost 360,000 greater than in January 2023, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made reducing them one of his five core promises to voters.

Junior doctors with the British Medical Association are set to walk out for five days from June 27 to July 2 in the run-up to the general election, after months of failed talks on pay between their representatives and Sunak’s governing Conservatives. The BMA has already staged at least 38 days of strikes since first holding a walkout in March last year, while other unions have also taken action.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be achieved by having strikes in the election campaign”, Streeting said in a separate Sunday interview with Sky News. He warned that going ahead with the industrial action will mean “more untold misery” for patients and leave junior doctors “out of pocket,” and he pledged to speak with their representatives on “day one” of a Labour government.

Streeting reiterated Labour leader Keir Starmer’s comments that the party won’t be able to deliver on the BMA’s demands for a 35% pay rise if it gets into power. But he said the party would be willing to negotiate on pay and improve working conditions for doctors if he becomes health secretary.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.