Junior doctors vote overwhelmingly to strike with record turnout

72-hour walkout planned across all services as union calls for full pay restoration

Junior doctors strike

Junior doctors in England have voted by 98% to take industrial action, the highest ever number of junior doctors voting to strike.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are preparing for a 72-hour full walkout in all services in March.

The union is calling for a full pay restoration for junior doctors, who have experienced a 26% real-terms pay cut since 2008.

On top of drastic pay cuts, doctors have spoken out about exhaustion and burnout within the NHS, as working conditions decline and waiting times increase year on year.

Dr Martin Whyte, Deputy Chair of UK Junior Doctors’ Committee, highlighted 24-hour waits in A&E and people unable to see hospital specialists as evidence of a health system failing its staff and patients.

He summed it up on GMB news, stating, “these strikes are not the cause of the failure of the NHS, they’re a symptom of it.”

Whilst real terms pay-cuts have seen junior doctors loose over a quarter of their pay, they are also asking the government to take action to retain staff in the health service.

Data in December revealed 4 in 10 junior doctors were actively planning to leave the NHS as soon as they could find another job, with poor pay and working conditions cited as the top reasons for leaving.

The government last year refused to offer junior doctors in England a pay increase of more than 2%, leading to the latest ballot on industrial action which had a record turnout of 77.49%.

Following the overwhelming mandate, BMA co-chair Dr Laurenson, said ministers could no longer ignore their demands.

Dr Laurenson said: “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.

He added: “The government is not an immovable object, but we are an unstoppable force.”

Second co-chair Dr Trivedi said the mandate was a ‘giant step forward’ in restoring value to the profession, and emphasised the importance of member unity.

The Health Minister Maria Caulfield has come out to say the government is ‘concerned’ and ‘disappointed’ at the strike action and said the BMA’s pay demand was ‘not affordable’.

The ballot concerned nearly 48,000 junior doctors, making up more than two-thirds of the junior doctor workforce.

Tomorrow, BMA will hold a meeting with health officials to discuss the pay dispute with the hope of receiving a new and acceptable offer.

Doctors are the latest NHS workers to take up strike action for fair pay and conditions, with nurses set for a 48-hour walkout on March 1st, whilst thousands of ambulance workers took strike action yesterday.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Flickr / Creative Commons)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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