Junior doctors across England are set to go on strike for 72 hours next month in a major escalation in unions’ dispute with the government over pay.
The British Medical Association announced today that 98 per cent of junior doctor members had voted in favour of industrial action on a 77 per cent ballot turnout.
It has yet to announce dates for the action, but previously said trusts would need to arrange emergency cover to ensure patient safety.
The union has called on the government to reverse real terms pay cuts, saying: “If the government refuses to give us full pay restoration, we will be calling for a full walkout of all junior doctors for 72 hours. This will be our first round of action.”
Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: “This vote shows, without a shadow of a doubt, the strength of feeling among most of England’s junior doctors.”
The union is campaigning for “full pay restoration” following more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts. The union says junior doctors’ pay has fallen by 26 per cent over the last 15 years.
Junior doctors in England were excluded from the latest government pay award as their contract remains subject to a multi-year pay deal that ends in March. They were awarded 2 per cent for 2022-23.
The doctors’ pay review body said this was “likely not sufficient” in addressing recruitment, retention and motivation in its latest report.
Junior doctors in the BMA previously took strike action in 2016 over contract changes, in action which was widely seen at the time to have ended unsuccessfully.
March will see a significant wave of industrial action as nurses are also set to strike that month, this time for 48 consecutive hours, when they walk out of emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care services for the first time.
Ambulance staff with the GMB and Unite unions are set to take action on 6 and 20 March across various ambulance services in England.
Unison has confirmed staff at a further four ambulance trusts have voted for industrial action following a re-ballot, alongside another five NHS organisations, but currently has no upcoming dates announced. Its last ambulance service strike was on 10 February.
Unions want the government to re-open negotiations on the 2022-23 Agenda for Change pay deal, as the latest award was below current levels of inflation.
It comes as junior doctors with the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association have voted to strike for the first time in the union’s history.
The HCSA confirmed today that members at trusts across England will walk out on March 15 after 97 per cent of them voted ‘yes’ on a 75 per cent turnout.
In response to the BMA’s announcement, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and it is deeply disappointing some union members have voted for strike action.
“I’ve met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss what is fair and affordable, as well as wider concerns around conditions and workload. I want to continue discussing how we can make the make the NHS a better place to work for all.”