Junior doctors are to ballot for industrial action in early January after the Government failed to meet the BMA’s demand for pay restoration to 2008/9 levels by the end of September.
Members of the BMA junior doctors committee voted in favour of the ballot on Saturday as they appointed two new co-chairs.
The JDC will request approval from BMA council, the union’s principal executive committee, to ballot junior doctor members in England from about 9 January.
Junior doctors have experienced real-term pay cuts of more than a quarter of their salaries since 2008/9. The Government this year gave junior doctors a 2% pay uplift, excluding them from the higher 4.5% pay uplift for other NHS workers which the BMA says is ‘still derisory’ given the ongoing cost of living crisis and following the COVID pandemic.
The pay review body warned Government a failure to include staff on multi-year pay deals in the higher uplift would ‘have a significant effect on motivation, affecting retention, productivity, and ultimately patient care’.
Two-thirds of trainee doctors responding to a recent GMC survey said they ‘always' or ‘often’ felt worn out at the end of a working day.
The BMA said it is ‘deeply concerned’ that continuing pay erosion will drive doctors out of the profession at a time of record backlogs and when the NHS ‘can least stand to lose them’.
The union believes the lack of a fair pay deal will lead to ‘a vicious cycle of crippling staffing shortages and worse patient care’.
A recent BMA survey showed that 83% of responding junior doctors in England believe this year’s 2% pay award is ‘completely unacceptable’, and 72% would be prepared to take industrial action if the Government does not commit to full pay restoration.
In a joint statement, the new co-chairs of JDC, Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, said: ‘The Government’s continual failure to value junior doctors and reverse years of pay erosion has left us with no choice but to enter a trade dispute.
‘Despite being given ample opportunity to do so, the secretary of state has failed to respond to our requests to meet to discuss our concerns. We recognise that the Government’s unwillingness to engage with junior doctors will result in it sleepwalking into doctors going on strike.
‘A junior doctor is not worth more than a quarter less today than they were in 2008, and yet this is the amount of pay erosion we are facing. Many of us are struggling to pay our rent, mortgages, childcare costs and energy bills and questioning whether the continued struggle is worth it.
‘For years, junior doctors have soldiered on, in the face of continued pay erosion and through a global pandemic. But it’s become clear that the Government is deep into their overdraft at the bank of good will and now they must pay us back. Pressures are unbearable; waiting lists have hit new records, ambulances are stacking up outside hospitals and GP services are deluged with demand. ‘The NHS is paying the price for the Government having presided over years of pay erosion with a chronically understaffed workforce that cannot meet the needs of its patients, which will only worsen if more junior doctors leave the NHS prematurely.
‘Strike action is always a last resort. No doctor wants to take industrial action, and this is, of course, still wholly avoidable if the Government commits to full pay restoration.
‘Our message to the profession and to our patients is clear. The perpetual crisis in the NHS is not acceptable, but the danger is that it comes to be treated as the norm. Without an urgent intervention, it will only get worse. We are now in a trade dispute with Government over pay and will proceed with the next steps in preparing to ballot junior doctor members in England for industrial action.’