Following a successful ballot, junior doctors with the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) have decided to strike on 15 March 2023. Pay reform due to rising inflation rates has become the main driving force for industrial action for junior doctors in the NHS. Additionally, junior doctors with the British Medical Association (BMA) have also voted ‘YES’ to striking with exact dates to be announced.
The decision of HCSA junior doctors to strike will become the first in the union’s history. Further, this historical moment was marked by significant numbers in favour of striking 97.48%. with a 74.76% turnout.
As of January 2023, the inflation rate in the UK is 10.1%. With annual pay rises of only 2% for junior doctors in the NHS, more are seeking other opportunities – such as going overseas or outside of healthcare. Pay reform is becoming necessary to maintain healthcare professionals in the NHS.
What Will Happen on 15 March
The strike will begin at 00:01 and end at 23:59 on 15 March 2023. Junior doctors are expected to not come into work on the day or carry out any work-related activities from home.
Picket lines will also be organised at some hospitals, which has been encouraged for members to join in. Otherwise, at places with no physical picket lines, the HCSA has asked for a ‘virtual picket’ – which involves eligible members not working on the day regardless of the appearance of picket lines at their workplace.
Although junior doctors will strike, the HCSA will be maintaining good medical practice by ensuring effective handover to other staff before participating in strike action.
Other Strike Action
Other than junior doctors, ambulance workers with the GMB and Unite unions will also go on strike on 6 and 20 March. The strike action will be joined by paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers in England and Wales.
As for junior doctors with the BMA, exact dates are yet to be announced. However, they have planned for the strike action to begin with a 72-hour walkout in March. Preparation for this is currently happening.
Response from the UK Government
As reported by Evening Standard, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care has said that they value junior doctors, and they are aware that retaining and supporting the NHS workforce is one of their main priorities.
The spokesman further noted that they have agreed to a multi-year with the BMA for a cumulative pay increase of 8.2% compared to 2019-2020 numbers. Additionally, they have also introduced a higher pay band for most experienced workers and increased night shift pay rates.
However, the BMA is now demanding full pay restoration as there has been a steep decline in junior doctors’ pay since 2008-2009. They are also striking to pursue a system that will prevent future declines due to rising inflation and costs of living, as well as a reform of the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body (DDRB) process to safeguard the recruitment and retention of junior doctors.