The BMA will move toward a ballot of junior doctors over industrial action in early January, it has announced.
It revealed over the weekend that the BMA junior doctors committee voted to go to a ballot for industrial action on Saturday, meaning they have now ‘entered a trade dispute’.
The committee will now request approval from the BMA council to ballot junior doctors in England ‘from around the 9 January’, the BMA said.
This move suggests a greater appetite for industrial action from the new BMA leadership and comes after the executive team of the BMA’s GP Committee for England was given a mandate to ‘immediately escalate discussions with BMA Council’ on industrial action in response to the GP pay announcement back in July.
The BMA has told Pulse that it remains in the early stages of preparations for any GP industrial action and the specific form of GP industrial action will be ‘decided at a later date’.
But it will be balloting junior doctors in the new year. New BMA junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘The Government’s continual failure to value junior doctors and reverse years of pay erosion has left us with no choice but to enter a trade dispute.
‘Despite being given ample opportunity to do so, the Secretary of State has failed to respond to our requests to meet to discuss our concerns. We recognise that the Government’s unwillingness to engage with junior doctors will result in it sleepwalking into doctors going on strike.’
They added that the Government is ‘deep into [its] overdraft at the bank of goodwill’ and now ‘must pay us back’.
They said: ‘We are now in a trade dispute with the Government over pay and will proceed with the next steps in preparing to ballot junior doctor members in England for industrial action.
‘Strike action is always a last resort. No doctor wants to take industrial action, and this is, of course, still wholly avoidable if the Government commits to full pay restoration.’
The BMA added that the ‘strength of feeling among junior doctors is clear’, with its recent survey showing that 83% of junior doctors in England believe this year’s 2% pay award is ‘completely unacceptable’ and 72% would be prepared to take industrial action if the Government does not commit to restoring pay fully.
But it announced on Friday that it was setting up its first-ever ‘strike fund’ of ‘up to £2 million’ in preparation for potential ballots on industrial action, to be released if the Government missed the 30 September deadline.
The BMA is also taking steps to create a ‘strike hardship fund’ through donations to ‘support doctors who want to take part in industrial action but may be reluctant to do so because of financial difficulties’, alongside the £2 million, it said.
While the funds will initially support junior doctors, they could also be used to support GP industrial action, if it were to take place.
Meanwhile, England’s LMCs have been asked to consider what ‘is needed’ regarding ‘collective action/industrial action’ ahead of a special LMC conference to be held in November.
The BMA’s GP Committee last month held an emergency meeting to discuss current pressures and the ‘potential actions GPs can take’ in response to Government underinvestment and ‘crippling workloads’.
Junior doctors were excluded from the pay uplift announced for other NHS workers last month, alongside GP partners.
By April 2022, junior doctors had seen their pay fall in real terms by 26.1% since 2008/9, according to the BMA.