The BMA has today told the Government that, if a ballot for industrial action is successful, junior doctors will begin their action with a 72-hour full walkout1 in March. The ballot across England begins on Monday 9th January; the BMA is still urging the Secretary of State for Health to meet with doctors and negotiate a solution to avoid the need for industrial action. But Steve Barclay is the first Health Secretary for over 50 years to continue to ignore all invitations from the BMA to meet with doctors, making attempts to find a negotiated settlement virtually impossible.
Successive governments have overseen fifteen years of real terms pay cuts for junior doctors in England, which amounts to a staggering and unjustifiable 26.1% decline in pay since 2008/09. The BMA has repeatedly called on the Government to reverse these pay cuts, to keep doctors in the NHS and alleviate the staffing crisis which is preventing the NHS from tackling record waiting lists and giving patients the care they need.
Patients are suffering and exhausted staff are burning out and leaving the NHS and yet this Government fails to see the crisis in front of it, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary and preferring to treat the public as fools with assurances that the NHS has all the resources it needs. Ministers have ignored all requests to meet and discuss doctors’ pay with the BMA. With the Government’s door firmly shut to dialogue, let alone negotiations, the Association says there is no other option left than to ballot junior doctors in England for strike action.
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, said:
“The Prime Minister says his door and that of the Health Secretary, are ‘always open.’ But after more than a decade of pay cuts no offer to restore our pay has been made, and all our calls to meet, and letters to the Health Secretary and his immediate predecessors, have been ignored. When we are faced with such resolute ongoing silence, and there is no agreed settlement on the table, then we are left with no choice but to act.
“Junior doctors are not worth a quarter less than they were fifteen years ago nor do they deserve to be valued so little by their own Government. Pay erosion, exhaustion and despair are forcing junior doctors out of the NHS, pushing waiting lists even higher as patients suffer needlessly. The Government’s refusal to address fifteen years of pay erosion has given junior doctors no choice but to ballot for industrial action. If the Government won’t fight for our health service, then we will.
“It is particularly galling for junior doctors to see the government repeatedly justify huge real terms pay cuts for NHS staff by claiming that these have been made by so-called ‘independent’ pay review bodies, free from government interference. The reality is that the doctors’ pay review body has been constrained by political interference for more than a decade. Even after recommendations have been made to increase junior doctors’ pay, the Government has completely ignored them and has asked the pay review body to completely exclude junior doctors from its recommendations.2 When even the pay review process – broken as it is – is telling ministers to act, you know something has gone seriously wrong.”