Steve Barclay Squirms As Susanna Reid Queries Government's 'Odd' Approach To NHS Strikes

"The NHS is in its most perilous position in its history," she pointed out.
Susanna Reid and Steve Barclay
Susanna Reid and Steve Barclay
ITV Good Morning Britain

Steve Barclay was in the hot seat on Thursday morning when he was pressed by Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid over the ongoing junior doctor strikes.

Currently the environment secretary, Barclay previously served as the health secretary under both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson.

This position is now held by his colleague Victoria Atkins – but Barclay still found himself under pressure over the ongoing crisis in the NHS on Thursday.

Junior doctors are in the middle of a six-day walkout right now, the longest strike in NHS history, due to a drawn-out row with the government over their pay.

Amid fears about the threat this poses to the entire health service, Reid asked Barclay: ”Can you just explain, in detail, why there is this principle that a lot of people find odd – you will not sit down with the junior doctors while they are striking.”

“The health secretary was sitting down with the junior doctors,” Barclay replied. “It is the junior doctors who walked away from the negotiation committee to cause the strikes in a way that the consultants haven’t...”

As Reid rephrased her question, Barclay spoke over her to say the junior doctors “haven’t shifted” in their position over pay.

Reid just continued: “You have a principle of not doing [negotiations] while strike action is going ahead.

“But while strike action is going ahead is when the NHS is in its most perilous position in its history.

“Why won’t she [Atkins] sit down with them now?”

Nearly half of all NHS doctors are junior doctors, which is why some hospitals have declared critical incidents in their absence.

Barclay said the junior doctors have “refused” to move from their request for full pay restoration – which equates to a 35% uplift on their current salary.

“So, you’re saying Victoria Atkins would sit down in a room to willingly restart those negotiations, today?” Reid pushed.

Barclay said this would only happen if the strikes were cancelled, to which the ITV presenter replied: “I do not understand why you won’t do it while the strikes are going on.”

The cabinet minister then said it was the main union organising these strikes, the British Medical Association (BMA), which was bringing politics into the situation.

“It’s the junior doctors’ BMA committee which has taken this political approach, that’s been calling strikes in the busiest week of the year for patients, the hardest time for the NHS to deal with these strikes,” Barclay said.

He added: “Just as they called them at the time of the Conservative Party conference.”

Junior doctors and consultants went on a rally together in Manchester, where the Tory conference was held, back in October.


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