Junior and senior doctors in England will go on strike together for the first time, a medical association said Thursday, in an escalation to a long-running dispute with the government over pay.
Strikes over pay have hit many sectors of the British economy over the past year with medical workers among those joining picket lines amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
Junior doctors -- physicians who are not senior specialists but who may still have years of experience -- have staged several days of strike action in recent months and will walk out again in September.
They will go on strike on September 20-22, with one day coinciding with a strike by consultants, typically specialists in specific fields of medicine, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.
Junior doctors and consultants will then strike at the same time on October 2-4.
The ongoing strike action has piled more pressure on the state-run National Health Service (NHS), which is grappling with record patient waiting times blamed in part on a large pandemic backlog.
The UK government has offered junior doctors a pay rise of six percent and an additional consolidated increase of £1,250 with consultants also offered six percent, warning there will be no further negotiations.
But the BMA says the take-home pay of doctors has been eroded over the last 15 years as salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation.
"We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don't have to –- the prime minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members," representatives of the junior doctors said.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the announcement was "extremely disappointing" and urged the BMA "to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption".
Barclay said that nearly 900,000 appointments have been cancelled due to strike action and "I fear the BMA's hardline stance and threat of indefinite action means this number will only keep rising".