Last month, junior doctor representatives from across the UK met for the first in-person BMA junior doctors conference since the outbreak of COVID-19.
With inflation spiralling ever higher, it was no surprise that the key topic debated was the significant erosion of junior doctors' pay in England, and what action the BMA should take in response.
By an overwhelming majority, delegates passed a motion – ratified at a meeting last week of JDC – calling on the BMA to begin campaigning for full restoration of junior doctors’ pay.
Between 2008/09 and 2020/21, the estimated take-home pay for the average junior doctor in England has declined by 22.4% in real terms, and these losses are accelerating now with inflation continuing to rise.
It is simply not the case that a junior doctor is worth a quarter less today than they were in 2008, and yet that is the crisis that we are facing.
Therefore, we are demanding the Government commits to full restoration of pay to levels equivalent to 2008/09 adjusted for inflation by the end of the year. If that demand is not met by ministers, the BMA will begin its preparations to ballot junior doctors in England for industrial action.
That we have reached this point clearly demonstrates the frustration and anger being felt by junior doctors on the ground. This anger has escalated since the Government took the decision last year to exclude junior doctors from the 3 per cent uplift offered to others in the profession. Ministers should be under no illusion to the gravity of this situation.
Our message is clear – that these ministers are now on notice. Overworked and underpaid junior doctors cannot and will not tolerate being ignored any more. They deserve to be fairly paid.
It is time the Government wakes up to the reality that their choices are setting up the NHS for an even greater crisis than the one it already faces. Further pay erosion is likely to start forcing junior doctors out of the NHS, especially when a worldwide shortage of doctors means the UK risks losing staff to better paid jobs with better working conditions overseas.
The truth is that, without fair pay for junior doctors, the NHS will not be able to recruit nor retain the doctors it does have, which will only worsen patient care, and perpetuate and aggravate already challenging working conditions.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be building our campaign for full pay restoration, including utilising our growing activist network and providing training on workplace organisation to expand our reach on this key issue among our colleagues in readiness. Should the Government fail to meet our demands, we will be prepared to ballot our members in the new year.
You can find out more about the BMA’s pay campaigning here, including campaign assets to download and distribute.
Sarah Hallett and Mike Kemp are BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs