TODAY is the second of a three-day pre-Christmas strike by junior doctors who, on January 3, are going out for a further six days – the longest strike in NHS history.

Is this a sign of their desperation, or a sign that they, like the Government, are becoming detached from reality?

The public always wish to support the angels and heroes who save their lives and who sacrificed enormously to get the nation through the pandemic. They’d give them the earth, if they could.

But they can’t. The public knows that times are tight, and the junior doctors’ demands for a 35 per cent rise are unlikely. They will have noted that the strike comes in the week that the NHS repair bill topped £12bn, and that inflation fell to 3.9 per cent. They will also have noted that the British Medical Association rejected pleas from Age UK and the Patients Association to downgrade the action which will hit older people hardest.

The Government, though, has stoked the flames of the dispute, by finding 20 per cent for the wealthiest consultants when offering the junior doctors about 11 per cent. With health secretaries being changed more frequently than bedpans, it has presided over a year of industrial action in which £2bn has been spent on contingency planning and not on healthcare. This is madness.

Although one of the Prime Minister’s five pledges is to cut the NHS backlog, waiting lists have grown by half-a-million this year to 7.71m, a terrible outcome that is affecting the economy as sick people cannot work well.

Shockingly, because this dispute will only be settled by talking, there have been no negotiations since the beginning of this month.

For the sake of the ordinary person, who cannot afford private healthcare and who has now been a pawn caught up in these disputes for a year, we urge all sides to come together with thoughts of compromise uppermost in their minds and the Christmas spirit of goodwill to all patients in their hearts, to settle the action so we can start a new year not beset by the old problems.