Consultants asked: ‘Are you prepared to strike?’
Consultants across England will be asked if they would be willing to take industrial action, the British Medical Association has announced.
The trade union said it was holding a consultative ballot of its members in what was described as a “significant escalation” towards strike action. While the ballot is not a legal ballot for a strike, the British Medical Association said its results may determine whether it brings one in the future.
The union has been balloting its junior doctor members this month, who will walk out of English hospitals for 72 hours in March should they vote to strike.
The BMA cited real-terms cuts to consultants’ pay and a failure to address ongoing pension tax issues as reasons for balloting its consultant members.
Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: “Unless there is action by the government to address consultants’ concerns, waiting lists will simply continue to hit new record highs and staff shortages will only worsen as more senior doctors leave the NHS.
“The only way out of this crisis is to fix pay, fix pensions and fix the pay review body. Consultants would not take industrial action lightly.
“But in the absence of meaningful solutions from government, we’ve been left with no option but to consult our members’ views on whether they wish for us to hold a formal ballot for industrial action.”
The BMA’s consultative ballot is due to run next month.
The government’s latest pay award – which is significantly below current inflation levels – was met with widespread frustration by NHS staff and prompted strike action, with nurses and ambulance staff set to walk out again next week.
Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ interim chief executive, said the threat of further strikes was “alarming” and called on the government to sit down with unions to avert more action.
She added: “Meaningful pension reform for NHS staff is also essential and overdue, with temporary fixes by the government so far failing to get to the root of the problem.
“The longer the government puts off meaningful talks about this year’s pay award, which fell far short of what trust leaders and staff hoped to see, the worse the impact of industrial action on the NHS and patients will get.”