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NHS faces challenges as junior doctors extend strikes over pay

NHS junior doctors' rally in Manchester

NHS is bracing for a tough time as nearly half of England's medical staff, including junior doctors, prepares to walk out this month.

The strike is scheduled from 7am today (Wednesday, December 20) to 7am on Saturday, December 23. 

This marks a major escalation in the ongoing dispute over pay during one of the busiest periods of the year. 

Read More: NHS head says strikes by junior doctors will hit patient care

The strikes have raised concerns among hospital leaders, who describe the situation as their "worst fears realized." 

It’s particularly as they grapple with an increasing number of people seeking assistance for winter viruses, notably norovirus.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that training medics will undertake the NHS' longest-ever walkout six days from January 3. 

Leading health and patient organisations warn that the strikes could result in patients being "stranded" in hospitals over Christmas, ready to go home. 

Read More: Junior Doctors In England Announce 9 Day Strike As Pay Talks Falter

A joint letter from Age UK, NHS Confederation, Healthwatch England, National Voices, and The Patients Association stresses the potential difficulty for the NHS in maintaining safe care during walkouts.

The NHS officials express concern about the timing, which leaves them with only two normal working days in three weeks due to public holidays and strikes. 

The healthcare system assures that emergency and urgent care will be prioritised.

However, it acknowledges that "almost all" routine care will be affected. 

Strikers have still not heard ‘final offer’

The BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs, Dr. Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi released a joint statement.

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It read: “We had hoped that after a much-improved tone and approach from the new Health Secretary, Victoria Atkins, we were close to a solution to this dispute.

“We were encouraged by her insistence last week that even after our mutually agreed deadline had passed and we were forced to call new strikes, we had still not heard her ‘final offer’.

“We have spent the last two weeks awaiting this final offer in the hope it would be the long-awaited credible offer we could put to our members. Unfortunately, we are still yet to hear it.”

Ms Atkins urges the BMA to call off the strikes and resume talks.

She emphasised the potential impact on patients and the healthcare system. 

However, the BMA calls on Atkins to arrange talks regardless of the scheduled strikes. 

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