Junior doctors in England will be polled on whether they are prepared to take industrial action supporting an enhanced pay rise


The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would survey tens of thousands of its junior doctor members over the government’s decision to exclude them from a 3% pay increase promised to other health professionals.

The doctors’ union accused ministers of reneging on a promise to increase the 2% uplift that it said had been agreed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctors ‘devalued’

Dr Sarah Hallett, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: ‘Three percent is not an adequate uplift for any of our vital NHS staff, but in refusing to award the additional 1% to junior doctors in England above their multi-year pay deal, ministers have effectively devalued their enormous and lifesaving contributions over the last 18 months.’

Results of the survey will inform the BMA of whether to press for a formal ballot on potential industrial action.

It said that negotiations with employers in 2019 had resulted in a deal for 2% pay increases each year for 4 years, but that the settlement had not taken into consideration the ‘unprecedented demands of the COVID-19 pandemic’ during which doctors went to ‘extreme lengths’ to cope with demands on the NHS.

It pointed to a survey earlier this year that found the pandemic had left 42% of junior doctors experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and burnout relating to their work.

The pay award had left many doctors feeling ‘angry’ and ‘deflated’, according to Dr Hallett. She added: ‘As exhausted junior doctors continue to make incredible sacrifices whilst facing the largest ever backlog of care, it is time for the government to urgently reconsider their approach and ensure that junior doctors get the fair uplift they deserve.’

In July, the BMA announced that hospital consultants in England would be asked whether they were prepared to accept an offer of a 3% pay rise or support industrial action in support of a demand for a 5% uplift.

The Royal College of Nursing is also consulting its members over industrial action in support of a 12.5% pay claim.

The GMB union has recommended that its members reject the ‘miserly’ 3% pay award and opened a ballot today for possible industrial action over what it said was a ‘real terms pay cut’.

It has campaigned for a 15% pay hike.

University medical places ‘expanded’

The development came as the government announced that medical and dentistry schools in England would receive additional funding of up to £10 million to expand courses for the next academic year after applications increased by 20% on last year.

Ministers said the measure would lead to more than 9000 medical and dentistry places being available from the autumn in English universities, and would help bolster the NHS workforce in future years.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: ‘We want to match student enthusiasm and ensure as many as possible can train this year to be the doctors and healthcare professionals of the future.’

Commenting on the decision, Dr Mary Anne Burrow, co-chair of the BMA medical academic staff committee, said that the increase in student places ‘must not come at the expense of extra funding for the existing workforce or reductions in funding in future years, because tackling the waiting lists and backlog are going to require sustained investment over many years’.

She added that ‘the government must make clear that there will be sufficient clinical places for all those who succeed at medical school’.

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.