BMA prepares to ballot junior doctors on industrial action

Junior doctors will be balloted over industrial action if the government does not commit to full pay restoration by the end of September, the BMA has said.

BMA House

The announcement came after an emergency meeting of the UK junior doctors committee (JDC) yesterday. Following the meeting JDC co-chairs Dr Sarah Hallett and Dr Mike Kemp wrote to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay to highlight the strength of feeling about pay restoration among the profession and the need for it to be addressed immediately.

The BMA wants junior doctors’ pay restored to 2008/9 levels. Its calculations have shown that since then junior doctors have sustained a real terms pay cut of more than a quarter.

Junior doctors were not included in the 4.5% pay rise for doctors in 2022/23 because they are subject to a multi-year pay deal that delivers a fixed 2% rise per year, a move the BMA called ‘yet another devastating blow to junior doctors’ morale'.

The BMA said that the decision to ballot members follows 'deafening silence' from the government over the issue of pay restoration.

Industrial action

Dr Hallett and Dr Kemp said junior doctors’ morale was ‘at rock bottom’ and they have 'had enough of being overworked, underpaid and undervalued, and will not tolerate these cuts any longer'.

They said: “The government’s failure to include junior doctors in the wider – though still derisory – pay uplift for NHS workers or make any comment on pay restoration has only strengthened our resolve.

'Junior doctors have been saddled with eye-watering levels of student debt at the same time as their real-term pay has been eroded significantly, and now are facing rocketing inflation and a cost-of-living crisis that is spiralling out of control.

'We continue to work in what are often appalling conditions to care for patients in an increasingly overstretched and underfunded NHS, which is facing the highest waiting lists and backlog of care since records began.’

They added: 'Without fair pay, the government risks doctors leaving to better paid professions or jobs abroad where they feel valued. The NHS already struggles to recruit and retain doctors, and this will worsen a vicious cycle of poorer patient care and longer waiting lists, as those doctors that remain become even more burnt out and exhausted.'

'Unacceptable' pay award

A recent BMA survey of over 13,000 junior doctors found that 83% said the 2% pay award was ‘completely unacceptable’ and 72% were ready to take industrial action if the government did not commit to pay restoration. 

In the event of a ballot the JDC would decide on the nature of any potential industrial action and a timetable for action would be set out.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'Junior doctors are already in a pre-existing multi-year pay and contract reform deal, which ends next year – this will be the right time to consider pay.

'This deal came alongside £90 million of additional investment to provide the most experienced junior doctors with higher pay, increase allowances for those working the most frequently at weekends, and increase rates of pay for night shifts.'

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