Nearly all (98%) junior doctors balloted by the British Medical Association (BMA) have voted in favour of strikes, for the first time since 1975.
An even higher proportion, 99.4%, of the 76% turnout voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.
Junior doctors are in dispute with ministers over the terms of a new contract to be introduced in August 2016, which they say will mean them working dangerously long hours. A total of 37,155 members were balloted.
Junior doctors strikes
The BMA is inviting the Government to talks at the conciliation service Acas to avert the walkouts.
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.
“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.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive at NHS Employers, said: “Today’s announcement is disappointing and will result in thousands of NHS patients, their families and carers being concerned that their planned care and treatment will be disrupted during December. NHS organisations are now working hard to keep disruption to a minimum but it is inevitable that appointments will be postponed, surgery rearranged and clinics closed.
“By taking the unprecedented step of not providing emergency cover for two of their days of action, the BMA are putting the NHS and their colleagues under even greater strain during one of its busiest periods, impacting even further on our ability to provide safe and effective care for our patients.
“Even at this late stage, we call for the BMA to return to talks. The new contract offers increases in basic pay, concrete safeguards on working hours and pay protection to ensure that doctors won’t lose out. I think the public will question why the BMA are causing such significant disruption when the offer of talks remains open.”
The dates for the strikes are:
- 24 hours from 8:00am on 1 December (junior doctors to staff emergency care only)
- Nine hours from 8:00am on 8 December (full strike)
- Nine hours from 8:00am on 16 December (full strike).
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously said: “Our proposals offer better basic pay with increases based on responsibility instead of time served, a shorter working week and improved patient safety.”
NHS Employers has previously published guidance detailing how organisations affected by strikes should liaise with local BMA representatives to establish which departments will face staffing problems. It also looks at how to agree, wherever possible, a protocol to ensure that critical and emergency care is not disrupted and answers numerous queries regarding the balloting process in the NHS.