Junior doctors have voted in favour of taking action against ministers in a row over contracts and pay…
In what is certain to be a controversial and divisive decision, junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action.
With some 98 per cent voting in favour of a full strike and 99 per cent in favour of action just short of full action it is clear doctors feel strongly about the issues they are protesting against.
The first strike will take place on 1 December, with another two days scheduled for later in the month (8 and 16 December). Doctors have already received criticism for the decision, which is likely to cause disruption to patients. Routine services will undoubtedly suffer, with numerous operations and clinics expected to be cancelled during strike action. However, there will be provisions in place to ensure doctors are available for front line care.
The decision to undertake action was made after ministers left “no choice” by refusing to budge on the contract proposals put forward.
The British Medical Association (BMA) balloted just over 37,700 members—over two-thirds of the workforce. A total of 76 per cent cast a vote on the issue.
Doctors are protesting against a new contract being imposed by ministers. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had tried to negotiate by offering an 11 per cent rise in basic pay. However, in real terms this would see doctors receive less pay as other parts of their pay would be scaled back, including unsocial hours payments.
The BMA said the deal did not offer safeguard to ensure doctors were not overworked and taken advantage of.
BMA leader Dr Mark Porter said: “We regret the inevitable disruption that this will cause but it is the government’s adamant insistence on imposing a contract that is unsafe for patients in the future, and unfair for doctors now and in the future, that has brought us to this point.
“Our message to him is that junior doctors have today made their views perfectly clear but that it is still possible to get back around the negotiating table to deliver a contract that is safe for patients, contains the necessary contractual safeguards to prevent junior doctors being overworked and properly recognises evening and weekend work.”
Roger Goss, of the campaign group Patient Concern, said he was worried about the action and said it should not go ahead.
“This is the worst news for patients in the history of the NHS. What happened to the promise that the interests of patients are paramount and we put patients first?
“Any honourable doctor with a genuine vocation who wants to preserve the high esteem which the medical profession currently enjoys will refuse to cause suffering inherent in a full-scale walk-out.”
The contracts will not be enacted in either Scotland or Wales, but Northern Ireland is still in the process of making a decision.
In response to the decision, Hunt said: “It is regrettable that junior doctors have voted for industrial action which will put patients at risk and see operations cancelled or delayed. We want to ensure patients have the same quality of care across the week, and have put forward a generous offer that increases basic pay by 11 per cent and reduces doctors’ hours.
“We hope junior doctors will consider the impact this action – especially the withdrawal of emergency care – will have on patients and reconsider.”