Specialist, associate specialist, and specialty (SAS) doctors have been invited to enter negotiations with the Government after an “overwhelming” indicative ballot result came back for potential strike action.1
The indicative ballot for SAS doctors in England found 88% of respondents would be prepared to strike over worsening pay and working conditions.2
The BMA’s SAS committee held the ballot after months of informal talks with the Government failed to yield a resolution for members. The results, however, have prompted an invitation to enter negotiations, which the BMA hopes will lead to detailed and meaningful progress.
At a meeting of the committee on Thursday afternoon, it was agreed that this must be achieved by 6th November, otherwise a formal ballot will be sent out for industrial action.
SAS doctors are senior and highly-skilled healthcare professionals who, for many different reasons, decided not to follow the traditional consultant or GP pathway. The majority work in hospitals, alongside junior doctors and consultants, but some also work in the community.
Dr Ujjwala Mohite, chair of SAS committee UK at the BMA, said:
“The BMA is more than willing to continue talking to the Government about SAS doctors’ concerns – we don’t want to have to take industrial action and remain hopeful that this next step will lead to detailed and meaningful progress.
“The Government cannot ignore the strength of feeling on the ground, however. SAS doctors are overworked and exhausted, and have had enough of not being properly valued for the vital work they do – something we have been hearing at a grassroots level for a long time and which was strongly echoed in the overwhelming indicative ballot results.
“On top of chronic underinvestment and a lack of resource in the NHS, the last 15 years has seen real-terms pay for SAS doctors shrink by as much as 31%, and many are struggling to find reasons to stay in the health service. Like other hospital colleagues, many are now being pushed to reduce their hours or leave altogether, putting patient safety at risk and increasing pressures on the NHS.
“That’s why, with four months of stagnant talks behind us so far, we must be prepared to take the next step and ballot for industrial action if we absolutely have to – and we will do this on 6th November if upcoming negotiations fail to achieve anything for our profession.
“The Health Secretary says in his latest letter that he is ‘keen to avoid a vote for strike action’, but this requires him to make real progress with us. No doctor wants to have to strike, and we hope we can still avoid it, but the only way we can do that is if the Government listens to our concerns, and properly responds to them.”
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.
- The BMA consultants committee has also responded to an invitation to enter talks with the Government, to resolve the ongoing industrial action over pay. Read more.
- The SAS indicative ballot was launched on 25th September and closed on 16th October.