The BMA has urged junior doctors to vote “yes” to industrial action after a meeting with England’s health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, failed to result in meaningful progress from the impasse over pay.
Following a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, about doctors’ pay today, Professor Phil Banfield, chair of council at the BMA, said:
“Today’s meeting with the Secretary of State went as expected. The Government wanted to talk about the pay review body and their evidence, while we wanted to talk about how that is not enough, and that any discussion about any doctors’ pay must include full restoration.
“While this must be the first of many talks about how to do this for all doctors, juniors have faced some of the steepest cuts to their pay of any public sector worker over the last 15 years, with their pay falling by more than a quarter in real-terms since 2008/9. As a result, we risk losing thousands of talented healthcare professionals; four in 10 have told the BMA they are actively planning to leave the NHS as soon as they can find another job.
“The Secretary of State said today that he is committed to the NHS, but we’re past the point of platitudes now. The health service is in a critical state; staff are treating patients in cupboards, crying mid-shift, and not even getting a chance to eat. Only today, data has shown a dramatic increase in the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours for an emergency admission in A&E – 54,500 in December alone – and ambulance delays have hit their worst-ever response times. Years of undervaluing staff has left the NHS without the workforce it needs and stretched to the limit. This isn’t fair on staff trying to do their best, and certainly not fair for patients who need safe and timely care.
“The Secretary of State listened to what we had to say, and indicated a willingness to work with us, but we need action now. If opening the junior doctors’ ballot opened the door to the long-awaited meeting with Government, then we can only imagine what a ‘yes’ vote in that ballot will do. The ballot runs for six weeks and it is within the Government’s gift to avert strike action at the end of it by paying doctors a fair wage. In the meantime, the best thing junior doctors can do now is just that, and vote ‘yes’ to taking action, ‘yes’ to standing up for our health service, and ‘yes’ to protecting patient care. If we can head off industrial action, we will, but we must be prepared and ready to act if the Government refuses to address the worsening workforce crisis in health and social care.”