Junior doctors will be balloted over taking industrial action in the New Year, union bosses announced today.
The British Medical Association insisted ‘all options are on the table’, meaning walk-outs could potentially happen.
It has now asked for urgent talks with Health Secretary Steve Barclay, saying he still has the chance to avoid further NHS strikes this winter.
The BMA wants ministers to commit to a 26 per cent pay rise for junior doctors, who start on salaries of almost £30,000.
This would, in theory, equate to around an extra £7,800 for doctors in their first year of training.
Salaries can extend up to £60,000, though.
No10 only awarded junior doctors a 2 per cent rise in its most recent pay reward. It ‘eroded morale’ among medics, the union claimed.
The BMA said it feared this would trigger a ‘vicious cycle of dwindling staff numbers and worsening patient care’.
The British Medical Association is campaigning for a 26 per cent pay rise for junior doctors to compensate for what it says are 15 years of real term pay cuts. A doctor in their first year currently earns £29,384 so would earn about £7,800 more if union demands are met. Figures for more senior junior doctors would vary
The BMA, described as a ‘militant’ union by critics, represents 45,000 junior doctors in England.
It also said more doctors than ever are joining the organisation, with its membership surging by more than 5,000 since 2019.
It said that over the last 15 years junior doctors’ take-home pay has been cut, in real terms, by more than a quarter.
Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair for the BMA Council, called the ballot a ‘defining moment’ for the medical profession.
She added the union ‘stands united behind today’s junior doctors in calling for pay restoration and fair working conditions’.
The RCN is just one NHS union which has or is balloting its members over pay
The graph shows the Royal College of Nursing’s demands for a pay rise of 5 per cent above RPI inflation, which hit 14.2 per cent in October (red bars). This is in comparison to the Government’s pay offer (light blue bars). Pay is broken down by band, which less experienced members of staff being paid less than those more senior
The graph shows the current average salary of public sector workers (blue bars) and how much more their unions are asking their pay to be increased by (yellow bars). The nurses’ union is asking for a salary increase of five per cent on top of RPI inflection, which current sits at 12.6 per cent
Industrial action is expected to begin before Christmas, with reports it will take place over two dates, potentially a Tuesday and a Thursday. Pictured, NHS staff march from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street in July 2021, in protest over pay
HM Treasury data shows the NHS received £100.4billion in 2010/11 and its core budget has grown steadily until 2019. In 2020, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service received £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery. The health service has been allocated £151.8billion for 2022/23
Dr Runswick said: ‘Doctors will stop at nothing to protect their patients.
‘Years of pay erosion has left the NHS dangerously understaffed, putting the safety of our patients at risk, and yet still this Government refuses to listen.
‘Morale is sinking and without restoring pay the Government risks driving this country’s junior doctors from the NHS to better paid jobs at home or abroad.
‘Membership of the BMA is now at the highest level it has ever been, showing that there is a groundswell of support for the aims of pay restoration.
‘We urge the Secretary of State to talk with us as a matter of urgency.’
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: ‘Today’s junior doctors are not worth any less than they were in 2008/9, let alone 26 per cent less; but that is how much our pay has fallen on the Government’s watch.
‘We are the consultants, SAS doctors and GPs of the future and yet every day that future looks starker as our colleagues leave the NHS to better paid jobs at home and abroad.
‘Junior doctors put their lives at risk to care for patients during the pandemic and must now take action to protect our patients from greater harm resulting from relentless staff shortages.
‘The Government still has an opportunity to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement – but if it continues to refuse to do so then this Government is failing doctors and patients alike.
‘We urge all our members to vote yes in this ballot for change.’
Junior doctors in England went on strike for one day per month in the first four months of 2016 to protest against changes to their contracts proposed by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
In November 2015, almost all of the medics – 98 per cent – voted in favour of industrial action.
Junior doctors could once again ballot for strike action next year in echoes of the 2016 industrial dispute which saw them walk off the job multiple times in that year (pictured)
On the four strike days – January 12, February 10, March 9 and April 27 – junior doctors refused to provide routine care.
Hospitals cancelled 300,000 outpatient appointments in response.
On the final strike day junior doctors also refused to provide emergency care, the first time this had ever happened.
The dispute only formally ended in 2019 when junior doctors were offered an 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years.
They’re now contemplating taking action once more after the Government refused to offer junior doctors a 26 per cent pay rise, which they argue is needed to compensate for years of below inflation salary increases.
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