BMA sets up first-ever ‘strike fund’ to support industrial action

The BMA is about to release £2m from its reserves to pay for possible ballots on industrial action by members in the coming months – and setting up its first-ever ‘strike fund’ to support those who do take action.

The £2m will initially be used to support junior doctor members, who are likely to be balloted on industrial action first, but will also support any future action taken by other branches of practice, including GPs.

Alongside this the BMA has set up a strike hardship fund for the first time, which will be funded via donations, to support doctors who want to take part in industrial action but who may not be able to do so because of financial difficulties.

The BMA junior doctors committee wrote to the health and social care secretary in August asking the government to commit to full pay restoration for junior doctors by the end of September. The BMA said that the £2m industrial action funding would be released today if the government failed to publish plans to 'remedy 14 years of pay reductions for junior doctors' by Friday afternoon.

Pay restoration

The junior doctors committee is due to meet on Saturday 1 October to discuss next steps if the government fails to respond.

The association wants junior doctors’ pay restored to 2008/9 levels – it has calculated that they have sustained a real terms pay cut of more than a quarter since then.

A statement from the BMA said it was preparing for there to be 'no suitable response' and added that new health and social care secretary Therese Coffey had rebuffed invitations to meet with senior doctors.

The statement said: 'Since the BMA wrote to the government to call for a pay restoration plan, the secretary of state for health and social care, Dr Therese Coffey, has totally ignored the association’s invitation to meet with senior members, making her very possibly, the first health secretary in over 50 years to do so.'

Industrial action

BMA chair Professor Philip Banfield said: 'Even at this late stage we are calling on the government to meet with us and discuss the very serious concerns right across the profession about the state of the NHS and the cuts to pay and pensions which are driving doctors out of the health service.

'This is the first time in its long history that the BMA has created a strike fund – it is a sign of our commitment that we are making these resources available. It represents a significant step forward in our ability to support members taking action in defence of the NHS, the profession and our patients.'

BMA junior doctors committee deputy chair Dr Brendan Donnelly, said: 'On an on-call shift a junior doctor can be responsible for more than a hundred patients, and yet earn as little as £14 per hour; this is because real-terms pay for junior doctors in England has fallen by more than a quarter since 2008. 

'Many junior doctors have tens of thousands of pounds of student loan debt and shoulder immense responsibilities. The government still has an opportunity to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement - but if it continues to refuse do so then this Government has failed not just doctors but patients. Following today's announcement ministers should be in no doubt that we are ready to take action.'

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