Junior doctors challenge Government over unacceptable pay award

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 2 October 2021
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Junior doctors in England have expressed their dismay at not being included in this year’s pay award for NHS staff, highlighting the severely negative impact this has had on their morale and feeling of being valued, and called out the Westminster Government, demanding a fair pay uplift that both addresses long-term pay erosion and reflects their efforts during the pandemic.

In July, the Westminster Government announced that NHS staff would receive a 3% pay uplift – itself a real-terms pay cut that does nothing to address years of pay erosion. Moreover, this did not include junior doctors in England, who instead received a 2% increase as part of a multi-year deal agreed prior to the pandemic.

A survey1 of more than 6,000 BMA junior doctor members in England by the union and professional body has found that:

  • Nearly all respondents (96.6%) said the uplift was either completely unacceptable (63.8%) or inadequate (32.8%)2.
  • 93.5% said their morale has decreased as a result of being excluded from the uplift3.
  • 90.7% feel the Government doesn’t value their work4.

In light of these findings, at a meeting today (Saturday 2 October) members of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee agreed to intensify pay campaigning, while retaining the option to ballot for industrial action later within the year if change is not forthcoming.

Since 2008/2009, junior doctors in England have seen their real-terms take-home pay fall by 23%. Members of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Conference called earlier this year to campaign for a 15% increase to begin to address this sustained pay erosion and to recognise their contributions during the pandemic.

Dr Sarah Hallett and Dr Mike Kemp, junior doctors committee co-chairs, said:

“We were clear when the Westminster Government excluded junior doctors in England from the pay uplift in July – ignoring the immense efforts of trainees during the pandemic – that this was completely unacceptable.

“Since then, we have repeatedly urged the Government to revisit its decision, and award junior doctors with an uplift that not only recognises the sacrifices trainees have made over the last 20 months, but one that also makes up for more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts. The Government has not responded to these requests.

“Junior doctors have seen their take-home pay fall by almost a quarter since 2009. When coupled sacrifices made over recent months, with days spent on Covid wards with no end in sight, being redeployed into unfamiliar departments, wearing ill-fitting or non-existent PPE that left us fearing for our own safety and the safety of our patients, to be excluded from any additional reward is an extraordinary insult.

“No doctors discuss the prospect of industrial action lightly, but as our survey makes abundantly clear morale is at rock bottom. The decisions by ministers to ignore the efforts of junior doctors are to blame, and they are the ones who can make a difference here; they must reconsider their approach urgently.”

The committee also agreed that the BMA would not submit evidence on behalf of junior doctors in England to the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) – which makes recommendations to ministers around doctors’ pay – in the next round due to longstanding concerns over the body’s effectiveness and independence from Government.


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. 6,269 junior doctor members in England took part in the survey between 5th and 24th August.
  2. When asked “What are your feelings regarding this year's 2% pay award for junior doctors?”, 63.8% answered “Completely unacceptable”, 32.8% said “inadequate, 1.7% said adequate, and 1% said “completely acceptable”.
  3. When asked “How, if at all, do you feel that your morale has been impacted as a result of junior doctors exclusion from this year's 3% pay award for other NHS staff groups?”, 64.2% answered “Significantly decreased morale”, 29.3% said “Decreased morale”, 5.5% said “No change to morale”.
  4. When asked “How valued do you feel for your work following the Government's decision to not include junior doctors within this year's pay award of 3% for other NHS staff groups?”, 90.7% answered “I feel that the Government does not value my work at all”, 8.2% said “I feel that the Government values my work a little” and 0.6% said “I feel that the Government values my work”.