Almost 37,000 junior doctors vote to strike in record ballot
Almost 37,000 junior doctors are poised to join other NHS staff in strikes over pay
Tens of thousands of junior doctors will strike over pay next month after a record number of British Medical Association (BMA) members voted to walk-out.
Almost 37,000 votes were cast and 98% of those voted in favour of strike action, meaning this was the largest ever turnout for a ballot of doctors by the BMA and a record number of junior doctors voting for strike action.
The result means junior doctors in England will now prepare for a 72-hour walkout in March.
Members of the BMA hit out at Health Secretary Steve Barclay for failing to take part in meaningful negotiations on wages.
Mr Barclay said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and it is deeply disappointing some union members have voted for strike action.
“As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.
“I’ve met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss what is fair and affordable, as well as wider concerns around conditions and workload. I want to continue discussing how we can make the make the NHS a better place to work for all.”
BMA junior doctors committee co-chairman Dr Robert Laurenson claimed Mr Barclay’s alleged lack of meaningful engagement in pay talks is “quite shocking”, as he stressed: “Our 72-hour full walkout does not need to happen”.
Dr Laurenson added: “When you’re on a wage of about £14 an hour, there are some doctors who find themselves in some really difficult situations. I know of people living in really awful living conditions with damp and mould in their houses where they come back to after a long 12-hour shift. Some of our weekly working patterns are up to 72 hours in a week.
“When you go back to those kinds of living conditions, when you go back and you’re unable to fix those kinds of things and you’re living in damp and mould, it’s extremely demoralising.
“And then for the Government to say that actually they’re going to cut our pay again, I think it just leads to a result like we’ve seen today: a massive mandate to participate in strike action.”
Members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) also voted to strike in March, following a ballot.
The ballot of training-grade doctors with the HCSA employed by NHS trusts in England in January saw 97.48% vote in favour of striking, from a 74.76% turnout.
Announcing a walkout on Wednesday 15 March, HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “Junior doctors have held together patient care amid a spiralling staffing crisis.
“In return for this huge emotional, mental and physical toll they’ve been subjected to a decade of real-terms pay cuts totalling over 26%. Enough is enough.
“Our NHS is in an intolerable situation and junior doctors will not be taken for granted anymore. They are taking decisive action for their patients and for their own wellbeing.
“Falling pay, increasing workloads and dangerous levels of understaffing have driven carers across the NHS to strike.
“The blame for this lies solely with a complacent government, seemingly content to let patient care suffer.
“The ball is firmly in the government’s court. It must act now to negotiate a proper pay increase -part of a wider funding package for the NHS.
“Junior doctors are telling us that without change they will leave the NHS or leave the country entirely for better-paid medical jobs elsewhere. Our health service simply cannot afford for that to happen.”
NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said health leaders were “deeply concerned” about the junior doctors’ strike and repeated her plea for the Government to negotiate on current pay rates.
More than 140,000 appointments have already been postponed due to industrial action and this will rise “significantly”, she warned.
The HCSA, which represents hospital doctors of all grades across the UK, balloted training-grade doctors employed by NHS trusts in England.
The union previously said 397 people out of 531 who were entitled to vote took part in the ballot.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and we have been clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of our main priorities.
“As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors’ pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.
“The Health and Social Care Secretary has met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss pay, conditions and workload.
“He’s been clear he wants to continue discussing how we can make the NHS a better place to work for all.”
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