Significant steps must be taken to improve pay and working conditions for SAS doctors, the BMA has warned, as the deadline for an indicative ballot on industrial action draws nearer.
The Government needs to make ‘significant progress’ towards bettering the treatment and recognition given to specialist, associate specialist and specialty doctors in the NHS, if the association is not to move to a vote on possible strike action among SAS doctors in England.
The warning comes in a letter from BMA SASC chair Ujjwala Mohite to health secretary Steve Barclay published on 17 August.
Highlighting the outcomes of preliminary talks between the committee and the Department of Health and Social Care beginning in July on issues such as pay and conditions, Dr Mohite advises that insufficient progress since these discussions make the prospect of an indicative ballot on industrial action more likely.
She says: ‘Significant progress is still to be made to avoid the BMA SAS committee moving forward with an indicative ballot for industrial action.
‘On 20 September the BMA SAS committee will meet to decide whether to proceed to an indicative ballot for industrial action. I would much rather present the committee with positive meaningful reforms for SAS doctors that we have agreed with your government. I hope we can meet soon to make meaningful progress on these matters.’
Industrial action possibility
Calls among SAS doctors for a ballot on whether members of the grade should take industrial action first materialised earlier this year when a motion to this effect was strongly endorsed by members at this year’s SAS conference.
Should an indicative ballot go ahead, the prospect of SAS doctors joining their consultant and junior doctor colleagues in taking to picket lines to demand better conditions will take a decisive step forward.
In her letter to Mr Barclay, Dr Mohite emphasises the critical importance of SAS doctors to the health service, adding that taking steps to ‘make the SAS grade a positive career choice’ and thus hold on to these highly skilled and experienced staff members was vital for the wider NHS.
She says: ‘SAS doctors make up an essential part of the NHS workforce, but we are deeply concerned about the rate at which these doctors are leaving the NHS.
‘It is essential we take significant steps now to improve SAS doctors’ working lives and reward them appropriately, to reverse the damaging effect that years of being undervalued has had to this highly experienced group.’