The BMA junior doctors committee has today voted to go to a ballot for industrial action in early January.
Junior doctors have now entered a trade dispute and will request approval from BMA council, the union’s principal executive committee, to ballot junior doctors in England from around the 9 January. What form that industrial action will take will be decided at a later date.
The Government’s failure to make any effort to restore junior doctors’ pay has left the BMA with no choice but to enter a trade dispute. The health service is now under extraordinary and unprecedented pressure and the BMA is deeply concerned that ongoing pay erosion will continue to drive doctors out of the profession at a time when the NHS can least stand to lose them, leading to a vicious cycle of crippling staffing shortages and worse patient care. The pressures of the job are so severe that, in a recent GMC survey, two-thirds of trainee doctors said they ‘always' or ‘often’ felt worn out at the end of a working day1.
Junior doctors have experienced real term pay cuts of more than a quarter of their salaries since 2008/92. This year’s pay announcement added insult to injury, with the Government giving junior doctors a 2% pay uplift and excluding them from the higher, though still derisory, 4.5% pay uplift for other NHS workers. This is despite going above and beyond their contracts during Covid and the pay review body’s warning to Government that a failure to include staff on multi-year pay deals in the higher uplift would ‘have a significant effect on motivation, affecting retention, productivity, and ultimately patient care’3.
This situation cannot continue and the strength of feeling among junior doctors is clear. A recent BMA survey showed that 83% of responding junior doctors in England believe that this year’s 2% pay award is ‘completely unacceptable’, and 72% would be prepared to take industrial action if the Government does not commit to full pay restoration.
The new co-chairs of the BMA junior doctor committee, Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said:
“The Government’s continual failure to value junior doctors and reverse years of pay erosion has left us with no choice but to enter a trade dispute. Despite being given ample opportunity to do so, the Secretary of State has failed to respond to our requests to meet to discuss our concerns. We recognise that the Government’s unwillingness to engage with junior doctors will result in it sleepwalking into doctors going on strike.
“A junior doctor is not worth more than a quarter less today than they were in 2008, and yet this is the amount of pay erosion that we are facing. Many of us are struggling to pay our rent, mortgages, childcare costs and energy bills and questioning whether the continued struggle is worth it.
“For years, junior doctors have soldiered on, in the face of continued pay erosion and through a global pandemic. But it’s become clear that the Government is deep into their overdraft at the bank of good will and now they must pay us back. Pressures are unbearable; waiting lists have hit new records, ambulances are stacking up outside hospitals and GP services are deluged with demand. The NHS is paying the price for the Government having presided over years of pay erosion with a chronically understaffed workforce that cannot meet the needs of its patients, which will only worsen if more junior doctors leave the NHS prematurely.
“Strike action is always a last resort. No doctor wants to take industrial action, and this is, of course, still wholly avoidable if the Government commits to full pay restoration.
“Our message to the profession and to our patients is clear. The perpetual crisis in the NHS is not acceptable, but the danger is that it comes to be treated as the norm. Without an urgent intervention, it will only get worse. We are now in a trade dispute with Government over pay and will proceed with the next steps in preparing to ballot junior doctor members in England for industrial action.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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.