Intensifying our junior doctor pay campaign

by Sarah Hallett and Mike Kemp

The junior doctors committee has decided to escalate its campaigning on pay, in response to the Government’s unacceptable real-terms pay cuts and a year of sacrifices

Location: England
Published: Monday 4 October 2021
Wallet and notes illustration

On Saturday your junior doctors committee agreed to intensify pay campaigning, while retaining the option to ballot for industrial action within the next 12 months if change is not forthcoming.

During this incredibly tough period for the health service and its workforce, we know the frustration and fatigue felt by many of you; as frontline junior doctors, we feel it too. It’s been a relentless 18 months for the profession and there seems little prospect of this situation abating.

In a further hit to already low morale, this summer the Westminster Government announced that NHS staff would receive only a 3% pay uplift – 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.

We remain clear that excluding junior doctors from the pay uplift was completely unacceptable, and ignored the immense efforts of trainees throughout the pandemic.

We have repeatedly urged the Government to revisit its decision, and award junior doctors with an uplift that not only recognises the sacrifices made over the last 18 months, but also goes some way to make up for the 23% fall in pay since 2008.

The Government has not responded to these demands, and we are therefore escalating our campaigning on pay.

We know how strong feelings are on this issue. In August, over 6,000 of you told us through our pay survey that:

  • nearly all of you (96.6%) felt the uplift was either completely unacceptable (63.8%) or inadequate (32.8%)
  • 93.5% felt your morale has decreased as a result of being excluded from the uplift
  • 90.7% feel the Government doesn’t value your work.

When coupled with hardships of recent months – days spent on COVID wards with no end in sight, wearing ill-fitting or non-existent PPE, redeployment into unfamiliar departments – being excluded from any additional reward is an extraordinary insult.

On Saturday the committee also voted for the BMA to not submit evidence on behalf of junior doctors in England to the DDRB (the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration) – which makes recommendations to ministers around doctors’ pay – in the next round due to long-standing concerns over the body’s effectiveness and independence from Government.

This is in line with our consultant colleagues in England, who have also decided not to engage with the process in the coming year.

As a result of these decisions, over the coming months we will further develop and expand our pay campaign – Fairness for the Frontline – ahead of considering industrial action. No doctors ever consider the prospect of industrial action lightly, but as our survey makes abundantly clear, morale is at rock bottom, so we must ensure the voices of junior doctors are heard by Government.

As co-chairs of JDC, we are committed to representing and supporting you. When there is further progress or updates on our pay campaigning, you will be the first to hear.

Sarah Hallett and Mike Kemp are co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee