Junior doctors and consultants will undertake four days of joint industrial action in England this autumn after junior doctors voted overwhelmingly to extend their strike mandate in their campaign for full pay restoration.
Across September and October, for the first time in the history of the NHS, there will be four days in which junior doctors and consultants coordinate their industrial action. This is in addition to other days on which just junior doctors or just consultants will be on strike, the BMA confirmed.
The announcement comes as 98 per cent of junior doctors, from a turnout of 71 per cent, voted in favour of continuing industrial action. The re-ballot result has renewed their mandate for further six months, through to 29 February, 2024.
Junior doctors have so far staged 19 days of strike action since March of this year. Following today’s reballot result, they have announced six further days, on 20, 21, 22 September, and 2, 3, 4 October.
Consultants have staged four days of industrial action so far and have planned at least five more in the coming weeks, on 19 and 20 September and 2, 3 and 4 October.
The four joint days of action in September and October will see ‘Christmas Day’ levels of staffing from both groups.
A rally has been organised in Manchester, for both junior doctors and consultants, on 3 October – when the Conservative party conference is scheduled to be held in the city.
Both groups of doctors have seen their pay drop by more than a third in real teams over the past 15 years while working in a hugely understaffed and under resourced health service.
Government has handed ‘final’ below inflation pay deals to consultants and junior doctors this year.
The prime minister has imposed a 6 per cent uplift for consultants and six per cent plus a lump-sum £1,250 for junior doctors and refuses to enter further talks with either group to try to bring an end to the disputes.
Rob Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, said: ‘Today, junior doctors across England are sending a single message, loud and clear to the Government: we are not going anywhere.
‘We are prepared to continue with our industrial action, but we don’t have to – the prime minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members.
‘Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead. Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide.
‘There can be no more delaying, no more wasting time with impositions of pay deals, no more declarations that strikes must end before even stepping in the room with us.
‘If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if he continues to ignore us.
‘He knows the stakes, he knows our ask, and now he knows our resolve. The prime minister faces a profession united in its determination to address pay erosion.
‘Consultants and junior doctors stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity after months of facing the same inflexibility from government.’
Drs Laurenson and Trivedi pointed out that the NHS has already lost around £1bn due to strike action, which is roughly the same amount it would have cost to award junior doctors pay restoration.
‘Surely now the government must understand that it cannot continue down this self-defeating road,’ they said. ‘We have a mandate for six months more strike action, but they can make it much shorter – even a few days – if the prime minister was to simply come to the table.’
Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, added: ‘Junior doctors and consultants walk the same wards, look after the same patients in an underfunded and poorly staffed NHS.
‘It is becoming ever clearer that this government does not value us or our work and nor does it really value patient care.
‘If the Government was in any doubt about doctors’ shared determination to reverse the crisis the NHS is in, today will surely dispel it.
‘Never before have NHS consultants and junior doctors been forced to strike together for days on end, but that is where we have been brought by this government.
‘They must act to address our pay erosion, so that the NHS is able to train the doctors that we currently have, and to ensure that we have enough consultants to train the doctors of the future.
‘It is only by cooperating with doctors that the government has a chance of addressing the recruitment and retention crisis the NHS workforce is suffering.
‘Now, facing the prospect of six months’ more action, including days of both junior and consultant walkouts, surely the severity of the situation with doctors’ pay could not be clearer?
‘Our message is simple: work with us, negotiate with us both and we can look forward not to months of more walkouts but instead to a bigger, better valued and more effective medical workforce fit for the future.’