Union calls out Steve Barclay for ‘misleading’ public over doctors’ strikes and pay

BMA has written to the health secretary to correct his 'deeply disingenuous’ strike claims

Junior doctors and consultants are taking part in the first coordinated strike action in NHS history today.

Demanding better pay and conditions, the joint strike action marks an escalation in the dispute, which the BMA doctors’ union has said is their only option given the governments repeated refusal to negotiate with them on pay.

The health secretary Steve Barclay was on the air waves on Tuesday to defend his governments’ hard-line stance to striking NHS workers as well as slamming ‘militant’ staff.  However, he has once again been called out for misleading the public over false claims on pay and strikes.

Firstly, Barclay claimed to multiple news outlets that consultants receive an annual pension of £78,000, whilst NHS BS data has shown it is on average 40% less than this. This came just after he was already reminded by the BBC presenter of a previous lie he’d told on the show claiming that consultants’ pensions were tax free.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants’ committee and pensions committee chair said it was a “shameful attempt” by the government to “discredit the NHS’s most expert doctors”.

“Not only did Steve Barclay’s own department have to correct him for wrongly claiming doctors’ pensions are tax-free, but he is continuing to mislead by using vastly inflated figures,” said Sharma.

“It’s high time the Secretary of State comes clean and apologises for misleading the public,” he added.

Rishi Sunak has declared that his 6% pay offer to doctors in England is final, as Barclay backed this up by falling back on the excuse that it’s what the pay review body has suggested.

However, Barclay was also called out for claiming it was “factually incorrect” that the Treasury sets a cap on the pay recommendations of the pay review body, despite the fact the review body must take into account the “Government’s Departmental Expenditure Limits” and the government’s inflation targets, both determined by government.

What he also failed to account for is why in Scotland, junior doctors have been offered a 17.5% pay rise over 2 years, well over double what his government are putting on the table. Whilst there have been no strikes in Scotland, compared to six rounds in England.

The health secretary has also announced the government is planning to extend minimum service levels legislation to apply to nurses and doctors, meaning they could face the sack for striking.

To justify this, Barclay claimed that the ‘radical’ BMA had blocked locally agreed strike exemptions during strikes in August. The union has hit back that this was ‘categorically untrue’ and have sent a letter to Barclay calling on him to correct his ‘deeply disingenuous’ claims.

A recent survey revealed the huge majority of the public want to see the government enter pay talks with the doctors’ union. Yet the government seem more preoccupied with fuelling mistruths and anti-trade union narratives than having constructive negotiations on pay.  

Junior doctors are on strike from Wednesday 20th until 22nd, and again on 2, 3, 4 October when they will be joined by consultants over the three days, as well as today

(Image credit: Good Morning / YouTube screenshot)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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