A ballot of junior doctors on industrial action will open on Monday 9 January 2023, the BMA has announced.
The BMA revealed in October that the BMA junior doctors committee had voted to go to a ballot for industrial action over pay.
It said at the time that the ballot was planned to take place in early January, but that the committee required approval from the BMA council before the ballot could go ahead.
The BMA said yesterday that this will be a single national ballot of all its junior doctor members in England and that ‘all options are on the table’.
It said this comes as junior doctor membership of the union has risen by ‘more than 5,000 since 2019’, with more than 45,000 junior doctor members in England as of 31 October.
‘More doctors than ever’ are joining the union as a whole and UK membership stands at 173,000 doctors overall as of the end of last month, it added.
The BMA said that the Government ‘has ignored all requests to meet with junior doctor representatives’ and therefore they ‘now feel they have no choice but to take industrial action to reverse more than a decade of pay cuts, improve retention and stop the NHS staffing crisis spiralling out of control’.
It added that this year’s pay announcement means junior doctors are effectively ‘working more than a month for free this year’ because it amounts to a 10% real-terms pay cut.
Deputy chair of BMA council Dr Emma Runswick said: ‘This is a defining moment for the medical profession which stands united behind today’s junior doctors in calling for pay restoration and fair working conditions.
‘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.’
Dr Runswick urged the health secretary to talk with the BMA ‘as a matter of urgency’ and said that record BMA membership shows there is ‘a groundswell of support for the aims of pay restoration’.
A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: ‘Junior doctors are in a pre-existing multi-year pay and contract reform deal, ending in March next year, which will be the right time to consider pay.
‘Industrial action is a matter for unions, and we urge them to carefully consider the potential impacts on patients.’
They added that ministers have been engaging with unions and have been clear the door is open to discuss how they can work together to make the NHS a better place to work.
Meanwhile, 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.
But 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’.
Now England’s LMCs will consider options for collective or industrial action ahead of a special LMC conference to be held later this month.
In Scotland, junior doctors are pushing for full pay restoration and have met with the Government to discuss this year’s pay award, but are awaiting an official response.
BMA Scotland will discuss next steps at its next junior doctors’ committee meeting on 1 December and if no satisfactory response is received by then, all potential options including industrial action are on the table, it said.
Junior doctors in Wales have recently rejected a proposed new contract and their committee is gathering feedback to establish next steps.
And there are currently no plans to ballot junior doctors in Northern Ireland but their committee is also seeking views on pay and terms and conditions.
Junior doctor industrial action
And it announced in September that it was setting up its first-ever ‘strike fund’ of ‘up to £2 million’ in preparation for potential ballots on industrial action as well as a ‘strike hardship fund’.
While the funds will initially support junior doctors, they could also be used to support GP industrial action, if it were to take place.
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.