The BMA ballot for industrial action by junior doctors in England – in which many of our members are eligible to vote – opened on Monday 9 January.
While matters relating to terms and conditions of service are not within the remit of individual medical royal colleges or faculties, we recognise the right of doctors and other healthcare professionals to take industrial action, and we understand why many may wish to do so.
Our job is to ensure the voices of our members are heard and understood, and to support them at all stages of their career. We fully understand the frustration, and strength of feeling that doctors and others have regarding the profound NHS workforce shortages, their workload pressures, and other factors causing a steady erosion of morale and wellbeing. These include lack of postgraduate training places, rest facilities, access to hot food whilst working and inevitably, pay.
Workforce shortages and pressures are the key issues facing the NHS and we have consistently called on the Government to increase the number of doctors, address working conditions and ensure staff are appropriately valued and supported. We have previously expressed our concern that the exclusion of doctors in training and SAS doctors on the reformed contract from the pay deal will exacerbate the NHS staffing crisis at a time when the workforce is already tired and demoralised. These concerns remain, and we urge the government to take heed of the points we have raised.
If steps are not taken to address the concerns of junior doctors, there is a risk the NHS workforce will become further demoralised and depleted. This could undermine recruitment and push some to leave the NHS altogether, with profound and long-lasting consequences for patient care and the health service.
Patient safety is of course, vitally important and should not be jeopardised. All doctors, our members included, have the interests of patients at the heart of everything they do. We know that if our members choose to take industrial action they, and their consultant and SAS colleagues, will work to keep patients safe.