The BMA is setting up its first-ever ‘strike fund’ in preparation for potential ballots on industrial action by junior doctors and other types of doctors.
The fund will initially support junior doctors but could also be used to support GP industrial action, if it were to take place.
It today said it is making ‘up to £2 million available from its reserves to help meet the financial requirements for ballot preparations and other steps towards industrial action by doctors’.
The funding ‘will be released if today’s deadline passes without the Government committing to restoring junior doctors’ pay to levels equivalent to 2008/9’, it announced.
It added that while this funding will support junior doctors ‘in the first instance’, it will ‘also serve to support any future industrial action which might be taken by doctors in other branches of practice who are BMA members’.
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.
The BMA had demanded that the Government publish plans to remedy 14 years of pay reductions for junior doctors.
It today said: ‘Whilst there are still a few hours in which the Government can set out its proposals, the BMA is preparing for there being no suitable response.
‘Indeed, since the BMA wrote to the Government to call for a pay restoration plan, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Dr Thérèse Coffey, has totally ignored the Association’s invitation to meet with senior members, making her very possibly, the first health secretary in over 50 years to do so.’
BMA council chair Professor Philip Banfield said: ‘Even at this late stage, we are calling on the Government to meet with us and discuss the very serious concerns right across the profession about the state of the NHS and the cuts to pay and pensions which are driving doctors out of the health service.
‘This is the first time in its long history that the BMA has created a strike fund; it is a sign of our commitment that we are making these resources available. It represents a significant step forward in our ability to support members taking action in defence of the NHS, the profession and our patients.’
BMA junior doctors committee deputy chair Dr Brendan Donnelly added: ‘The Government still has an opportunity to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement – but if it continues to refuse do so then this Government has failed not just doctors but patients.
‘Following today’s announcement ministers should be in no doubt that we are ready to take action.’
The BMA’s junior doctors committee will meet tomorrow to consider any response it may have received from the Government and its next steps.
Any decision to ballot members on industrial action must also be approved by the BMA council, the principal executive committee of the BMA.
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.
However, the BMA has told Pulse that it remains in the early stages of preparations for any GP industrial action.
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 week 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.