Health Secretary Meeting With Doctors' Union To Avert Strikes Not Expected To Cover Pay
Health Secretary Steve Barclay will meet the BMA on Thursday (Alamy)
Health secretary Steve Barclay is set to meet doctors' union the British Medical Association for talks on Thursday as members are balloted for strike action, but discussions are not expected to cover pay, PoliticsHome understands.
A BMA spokesperson confirmed the meeting would take place tomorrow morning at 9am, after an initial meeting on Wednesday was cancelled due to Barclay's media commitments. But according to a source familiar with talks, the issue of pay will not be on the agenda.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said they cannot confirm details of internal meetings.
Junior doctor members of the BMA in England are holding a ballot on strike action that could see them walk out for 72 hours in March, in yet another pay dispute facing the NHS and public sector. Doctors argue that their current pay offer does not match inflation, and therefore would like to negotiate an increase.
The result of the junior doctors strike ballot will not be confirmed until March, but Barclay's plans to meet the union suggest the government is keen to avert further industrial action – with ambulance workers having walked out on Wednesday and nurses due to strike later this month.
The government already held a series of talks with unions engaged in industrial action, including health, transport and education sectors, on Monday.
A health worker union source told PoliticsHome there had been “progress” in the meeting on Monday and the “tone has changed” from the Department of Health and Social Care, but said there was unlikely to be further movement without a change in position from the Treasury.
Monday's meetings included suggestions from unions on backdating pay to January.
The Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "The Health and Care Secretary hopes to have further meetings with unions in the coming days to discuss this."
The government has also announced a controversial new bill that will limit the effectiveness of strike action, which faces opposition from unions and the Labour Party in Parliament.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe