The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that if a ballot for industrial action is successful, junior doctors in England will conduct a 72-hour walkout in March. The ballot has begun on 9 January and is open until 20 February.
Due to their demands, the BMA has encouraged members to vote ‘YES’ on their online publications regarding the planned industrial actions. This walkout plan adds to the number of strikes England has been experiencing across many industries since the latter half of 2022.
With many sectors demanding pay rises to compensate for rising costs of living, workers across the NHS are joining to call for better pay. Other sectors aside, health workers have already been experiencing a lot of pressure with staff shortages. Disruptions are expected to happen if the walkout plans go forward.
Demands to Reconsider Junior Doctor Contract
In 2019, the government agreed to a new contract for junior doctors. Within this contract, it was agreed that an average of a 2% pay rise will be given to junior doctors each year for the next few years.
However, due to the pandemic and rising inflation – this needs reconsidering. With inflation reaching 10.7% in November 2022, the agreed pay rise in 2019 no longer suffice. On top of that, many junior doctors are also protesting heavy workloads and stressful working conditions.
Jatinder Hayre, a junior doctor, expressed in a piece published in the Independent that the decision to go on strike is an easy one. Ultimately, junior doctors are fighting for job security which is currently lacking. The inadequate pay that has been given to junior doctors on top of existing shortages across the NHS has caused a vicious cycle of burnout.
If this persists, many junior doctors will seek other opportunities. Staff retention is already a concern within the NHS, particularly shown by a BMA survey that found that 40% of junior doctors are actively planning to quit the NHS when they can find other opportunities. Many feel that the emotional and physical burdens that they experience are not reflected in their salaries.
Government Reaction to Demands
It is constantly urged by the BMA for the government to meet with them. However, they have said that the government has made it difficult for doctors to meet with them. Currently, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, the multi-year pay deal that the BMA has for junior doctors is increasing by 8.2% by 2023. They have also invested £90m more to provide junior doctors with better pay and allowances.
If the ballot does pass industrial action, in March England will experience disruptions in health services. The BMA will withdraw labour from NHS services, affecting hospital services and others such as outpatient appointments and surgery. Services within NHS trusts will have to be scaled back – with consultants redeployed to cover junior doctors who will be striking. Overall, if this does go through, there will be a significant impact on healthcare services throughout.