Junior doctors have voted to take strike action in March with preparations for a 72-hour walkout now under way. The BMA balloted junior doctor members, with the results announced on Monday (February 20).
The results show 98 per cent of votes endorsed calls for industrial action, based on a turnout of 77.49 per cent. The BMA (British Medical Association) said the result represents a “huge mandate” for strike action, and is the highest ever number of junior doctors voting for strike action - a record turnout.
A date for the strike has not yet been set, but will be in March. It comes after years of campaigning from the BMA for full pay restoration, with junior doctors apparently experiencing a 26 per cent real terms pay cut since 2008 during a cost of living crisis and increasingly tough working conditions in the NHS, the BMA says.
Responding to the outcome of the vote, which will see juniors take strike action for the first time since 2016, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Vivek Trivedi and Robert Laurenson thanked everyone who took part in the ballot. In a video message to juniors, both co-chairs said that by approving strike action, doctors had ‘taken a giant step forward in restoring value to our profession’, adding that today’s result was the start of a better future for junior doctors.
Dr Trivedi said further details about when strike action would take place would be announced shortly. He said: “Thank you to all of you who have supported the campaign for full pay restoration. For turning out at rallies, sharing your experiences online, making the case to other colleagues, and of course, sending back ballots in droves voting for your future.
“Within the next few days, we will be confirming the dates of a 72-hour full walkout of junior doctors in all services. It is critical that we all participate together, as a union, bound together in defence of our profession. Strike action is an investment in our future, our careers, our profession, and our union. A union that can win full pay restoration is a union that can win anything.”
Dr Laurenson said: “This is still the very beginning of this fight but thank you for saying enough is enough. We are going to take this mandate and make it count.‘The excuses, flimsy arguments, and implicit threats will no doubt continue filtering out from Westminster, but make no mistake: this is a result the Government cannot ignore. The Government is not an immovable object, but we are an unstoppable force.”
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. As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.
“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.”
Junior doctor strike ballot breakdown:
- Number entitled to vote: 47,692
- Number of votes cast in the ballot: 36,955 (votes cast in the ballot as a percentage of individuals who were entitled to vote: 77.49%)
- Number of YES votes: 36,218 (98.06%)
- Number of NO votes: 716 (1.94%)
- Number of spoiled or otherwise invalid voting papers returned: 21