Junior doctors' leader apologises for going on holiday
Shamed junior doctors’ leader behind worst NHS strike in history apologises for ‘undermining’ BMA’s 4-day action by going on holiday – as even 28-year-old’s own family say they are ‘disgusted’ by his actions
Dr Rob Laurenson, the junior doctors’ leader who helped launch the biggest strikes the NHS has ever seen, has apologised for going on holiday while his colleagues are on the picket line.
The young medic’s absence as patients face their operations being canceled has even attracted condemnation from his own family, with some saying they are ‘disgusted’ by his actions.
Dr Laurenson, co-chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors’ committee has taken the week off to be at a friend’s wedding, leaving him unable to attend potential negotiations with Government to end the crisis.
But now in a message to colleagues shared in an online forum the 28-year-old union official apologised to his fellows for ‘undermining’ the historic four-day strike action.
‘I can see that you feel undermined and I am really sorry my actions have contributed to that,’ he wrote.
Choppy waters: Firebrand union leader Dr Robert Laurenson went on holiday during the strike
Dr Laurenson’s holiday absence technically means he will not be financially penalised by the strike action whilst his fellow lose their daily wages by taking to the picket line.
The messages, are understood to have been posted after another medic expressed their ‘disappointment’ at his decision not to attend the strike.
Dr Laurenson message continue: ‘The thing most important to me is the integrity of the unity of doctors and that is why I’m at pains to be as transparent as possible and accountable as possible.’
The young medic’s holidaying has even came under fire from his own uncle who said yesterday he ‘disagreed’ with his nephew’s conduct.
His uncle, also named Robert Laurenson, 72, a retired podiatrist, added: ‘They’re going on a four-day strike, what’s that about? I’ve got a hernia that’s not being treated.
Read more: As the junior doctor behind the most disruptive NHS strike in history goes on holiday as the walkout begins, ANDREW PIERCE asks: Will his ‘puerile’ posturing cost the BMA vital public support?
Dr Robert Laurenson, 28, (pictured) co-chairman of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, barely uttered a word during the 30-minute meeting with Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary
‘I would like a 35 per cent increase on my pension. If they want 35 per cent, I want 35 per cent. I’ve worked 50 years in my business and come out with this, smallest house on the lane, I haven’t got a five-bedroom house.’
When asked what he thought about his nephew going on holiday right before the strike, he said: ‘He’s getting out of it. Getting out of conflict. I’m disgusted.’
Now Dr Laurenson’s own father has also started to distance himself from his son.
Ian Laurenson, 69, said he was ‘on the other side’ to his child on the issue, adding he was ‘surprised’ by his son’s key role in the union demanding a 35 per cent pay rise.
The former business consultant of Orpington, South East London, told The Sun ‘We have a conflict of interest because we’re taxpayers — customers of the NHS — and he’s on the other side, wanting more money.’
‘It was a bit of a surprise to us when he stood for election. He’s not been known as some sort of militant anarchist and red in the bed.’
This is not the first time Dr Laurenson’s family connections have made the headlines.
As his fellow medis go without pay in their dispute with Government Dr Laurenson is a director of Westholme Investments, a firm set up by his parents, which has more than £2 million worth of funds.
It comes as Government demanded the BMA suspend all strike action before agreeing to talks.
Junior medics have taken to the picket lines for four days in an effort to pressure the Government into giving them a 35 per cent pay rise.
Led by the BMA, the medics argue this increase is needed to fix years of below inflation salaries, with the rise worth up to £20,000 extra for some medics.
But Government sources have branded the demand ‘ridiculous’ and the bitter impasse led to the collapse of negotiations and the ongoing strike action.
Yesterday the BMA reached out to the conciliation service ACAS in hope of ending the deadlock between ministers and medics.
On their part ACAS has said it is ‘well prepared and ready to help’ in the dispute.
But Home Office minister Chris Philp said the junior doctors committee should halt ‘extremely damaging strike action’ in order for discussions take place.
Touring broadcast studios on Thursday, the minister suggested Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s door would be ‘open’ – as long as the BMA contacts him directly and offers to bring industrial action to a standstill in the interim.
He was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Why not just say yes, in a strike where lives are at stake… yes to Acas? It’s not something that involves you having to agree to anything. It’s a process, it’s a discussion.’
Mr Philp replied: ‘Well, that’s a very recent change in position. That wasn’t the junior doctors committee’s position until very, very recently. I think it would also be constructive if they would just suspend the strikes while talks take place.
‘If they’re willing to do that, then I think the Secretary of State’s door is very much open.’
It comes as around 47,000 junior doctors staged their a third day of strike action in England.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wanted to find a ‘reasonable compromise’ with junior doctors.
Chairman of the BMA council, Professor Philip Banfield, said: ‘In the face of a constant refusal from the Health Secretary to agree to further talks and put forward a credible offer which could bring an end to the dispute, we believe that working with Acas provides the most realistic chance of a successful outcome to the negotiations.
‘The BMA has no preconditions to talks and has consistently sought to negotiate with the Government.
‘It takes both sides of a dispute to want to find a solution, and we urge the Health Secretary to show the same willingness that we have and make himself available and open to talks facilitated by Acas.”
Hospital bosses have expressed concern about keeping patients safe as they struggle to secure cover for overnight junior doctor shifts during strikes.
The health service’s top doctor, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, has warned that the situation in the NHS will ‘become more challenging each day this strike progresses”.
During the strikes, staff who are still working have prioritised emergency and urgent care over some routine appointments and procedures to ensure safe care for those in life-threatening situations.
This means hundreds of thousands of appointments and operations have been rescheduled as a result.
The BMA has claimed junior doctors in England have seen a 26 per cent real-terms pay cut since 2008/09 because pay rises have been below inflation.
The union has asked for a full pay restoration that the Government said would amount to a 35 per cent pay rise a figure ministers have said is unaffordable.
BMA officials said the pay issue is making it harder to recruit and retain junior doctors, with members previously walking out for three days in March.
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