The date the ballot for industrial action by junior doctors in England will open has been set for 9 January 2023.
A single national ballot of all junior doctor members of the British Medical Association in England will take place, and all options are on the table, it says.
The decision to ballot was confirmed by BMA council this week as more doctors than ever are joining the association. Junior doctor membership has surged by more than 5,000 since 2019.
As of 31 October, 173,000 doctors in the UK were members of the BMA, including more than 45,000 junior doctor members in England.
In the last 15 years junior doctors' take-home pay has been cut, in real terms, by more than a quarter. This year, the Government gave junior doctors a 2% pay uplift, which the BMA says amounts to a 10% real-terms pay cut when soaring inflation is taken into account.
The association said this means junior doctors are working more than a month for ‘free’ this year and that the Government has ignored all requests to meet with junior doctor representatives to discuss options.
It is ‘deeply concerned that ongoing pay erosion will continue to drive doctors out of the profession, leading to a vicious cycle of dwindling staff numbers and worsening patient care’.
Deputy chair of BMA council Emma Runswick said: ‘This is a defining moment for the medical profession which stands united behind today’s junior doctors in calling for pay restoration and fair working conditions.
‘Doctors will stop at nothing to protect their patients. Years of pay erosion has left the NHS dangerously understaffed, putting the safety of our patients at risk, and yet still this Government refuses to listen. Morale is sinking and without restoring pay the Government risks driving this country’s junior doctors from the NHS to better paid jobs at home or abroad.
‘Membership of the BMA is now at the highest level it has ever been, showing that there is a groundswell of support for the aims of pay restoration.
‘We urge the secretary of state to talk with us as a matter of urgency.’
Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of JDC, added: ‘Today’s junior doctors are not worth any less than they were in 2008-09, let alone 26% less; but that is how much our pay has fallen on the Government’s watch.
‘We are the consultants, staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors and GPs of the future and yet every day that future looks starker as our colleagues leave the NHS for better-paid jobs at home and abroad.
‘Junior doctors put their lives at risk to care for patients during the pandemic and must now take action to protect our patients from greater harm resulting from relentless staff shortages.
‘The Government still has an opportunity to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement – but if it continues to refuse do so then this Government is failing doctors and patients alike.
‘We urge all our members to vote yes in this ballot for change.’
The ballot opening on 9 January is for junior doctors in England.
Junior doctors in Wales recently rejected a proposed new contract and are planning next steps.
In Scotland, junior doctors have met with the devolved Government to discuss pay. They are calling for full restoration of pay to 2008 levels and are awaiting a formal response from the Scottish Government. Industrial action is still on the table.