HUMZA Yousaf has accused the UK Government of choosing“tax cuts for the wealthy” over fair pay for NHS staff as junior doctors in England begin a six-day walkout.

The strike action being taken by medics south of the Border is the longest in the history of the health service, with NHS bosses warning they are “deeply concerned” about its impact in the coming days.

One hospital trust reported that thousands of outpatients appointments had been cancelled for people who have “already waited a very very long time.”

In Scotland strike action was averted after a deal was reached for a 12.4% pay rise for junior doctors in training for 2023/24. Following a 4.5% uplift for 2022/23, that equates to a total increase of 17.5%, with ministers also promising talks on future pay increases.

READ MORE: Junior doctors in Scotland accept record pay offer averting strike fears

Yousaf, who has previously offered to mediate between the BMA and UK Government, wrote on Twitter/X: “Six days of Junior Doctor strikes in England, all because of a UK Government that chooses tax cuts for the wealthy over paying NHS staff fairly.

“We have taken different choices in Scotland and avoided a single day of NHS strikes. Our budget gives the NHS a real-terms increase.”

His comment follows reports Rishi Sunak is considering plans to offer cuts such as on inheritance tax to help boost his party’s ratings in the polls ahead of a General Election.

The junior doctors taking part in the strike action said it is the “only thing” the UK Government listens to.

Ministers and the British Medical Association (BMA) were locked in talks for five weeks last year in a bid to try and break the deadlock.

But strikes were called after talks broke down.

Medics insisted that Health Secretary Victoria Atkins had “pushed” them out of the negotiation room.

Speaking from a picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said there was “no good time to strike”, but added that “we need to recognise that we have a massive workforce crisis”.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf hits out at UK Health Secretary amid ongoing strikes

He said the strikes were necessary because they are “the only thing that the Government understands with regards to being able to work with a workforce”.

Laurenson added: “The only reason the Government will even entertain talks with us is because we have strike action.”

He said the BMA was “happy to negotiate anytime, anywhere”, adding: “I’m happy to negotiate right now. I’ll walk down to Westminster, I’ll sit down with Victoria Atkins if she wants to sit down with us, but she doesn’t. She’s pushed us out of the negotiation room.”

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, described the impact of the strike on patients as “absolutely huge”.

He said that hundreds of appointments and thousands of outpatients appointments had been cancelled across his hospital trust, adding: “These are people who’ve already waited a very very long time.

“So although we will maintain emergency services – we can assure people that if they require urgent care, maternity, A&E, ITU etc, the care will be safe – this has absolutely decimated our our plans to attack the long waiting times.”