British Medical Association (BMA) members nearly unanimously voted yes to strike action, with 98% voting in favour, the association announced this morning.
There was a strong turnout for the ballot, as 76% of the BMA’s junior doctor members voted. While 98% voted for strike action, 99.4% of junior doctors voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.
The strike is due to a new contract that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said will be imposed on junior doctors if they do not agree to it, which the BMA believes will mean longer, unsafe hours and reduced pay.
Commenting today, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, 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.
“Patients are doctors’ first priority, which is why, even with such a resounding mandate, we are keen to avert the need for industrial action, which is why we have approached Acas to offer conciliatory talks with the health secretary and NHS Employers to clarify the conflicting information coming from government over the past weeks.”
A total of 37,155 members were balloted, 28,316 ballots were returned and 28,305 were counted. The number of junior doctors voting yes was 27,741 (98% of valid vote) and 564 voted no (2% of valid vote).
Hunt said in response: “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.”.
The Department of Health (DH) is “not ruling out conciliation”, but believes that the process should follow meaningful talks. “We continue to urge the BMA to come back round the table,” the DH said in a statement.On 12 November the BMA announced the strike days, which will include two days of “full walkouts” including emergency and non-emergency care.
On Tuesday 1 December from 8am to Wednesday 2 December at 8am there will be a walkout for junior doctors in emergency care only. However, from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday 8 December and Wednesday 16 December there will be a full walkout.
According to the BMA, the reason for announcing the strike dates before the ballot has closed was to minimise the impact on patients and fellow doctors, and allow employers time to prepare.
Porter added: “The health secretary is right when he says this action is ‘wholly avoidable’. 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.”