JUNIOR doctors could walk out for 72 hours in March if they vote in favour of industrial action, it has been announced.
Staff are exhausted and are leaving the NHS with the Government failing to see the crisis in front of it, the BMA has warned.
The ballot across England begins on Monday, but the BMA urged the Health Secretary to meet with doctors and negotiate a solution to avoid strikes.
The BMA said Steve Barclay was the first Health Secretary for over 50 years to continue to “ignore” all invitations from the BMA to meet with doctors to discuss their pay, making attempts to find a negotiated settlement “virtually impossible”.
The BMA said successive governments have overseen 15 years of real terms pay cuts for junior doctors in England, which amounts to a “staggering and unjustifiable” 26.1 per cent decline in pay since 2008/09.
During the proposed strike action, junior doctors will not provide emergency care, with the BMA adding that trusts will need to arrange this to ensure patient safety.
However, trusts and the government will be given enough time to prepare, the BMA said.
Other NHS services are also set to walkout this month after strike action in December was unsuccessful.
On January 11 and 23 ambulance workers are set to strike in the dispute over pay and staffing.
Nurses will also strike again on January 18 and 19, after the Royal College of Nursing said the Government had ‘failed to act’.
Brits were also this week warned of worsening conditions in hospitals, with some running out of oxygen to treat patients.
Many beds are currently taken up by flu patients, and hospitals are so busy that even cardiac arrest patients are struggling to get ambulances and A&E patients are waiting up to four days for help.
NHS chiefs have said the NHS is experiencing ‘one of its busiest winters ever’.
Ministers have been accused of treating the public as “fools” with assurances that the NHS has all the resources it needs.
The Government’s door was “firmly shut to dialogue”, let alone negotiations, so there was no other option left than to ballot junior doctors in England for strike action, said the BMA.
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: “The Prime Minister says his door and that of the Health Secretary, are ‘always open’.
“But after more than a decade of pay cuts no offer to restore our pay has been made, and all our calls to meet, and letters to the Health Secretary and his immediate predecessors, have been ignored.
“When we are faced with such resolute ongoing silence, and there is no agreed settlement on the table, then we are left with no choice but to act.
“Junior doctors are not worth a quarter less than they were 15 years ago nor do they deserve to be valued so little by their own Government.
“Pay erosion, exhaustion and despair are forcing junior doctors out of the NHS, pushing waiting lists even higher as patients suffer needlessly.”
They added that the Government’s refusal to address 15 years of pay erosion has given junior doctors no choice but to ballot for industrial action.
“If the Government won’t fight for our health service, then we will.
“It is particularly galling for junior doctors to see the government repeatedly justify huge real terms pay cuts for NHS staff by claiming that these have been made by so-called ‘independent’ pay review bodies, free from government interference.
“The reality is that the doctors’ pay review body has been constrained by political interference for more than a decade.
“Even after recommendations have been made to increase junior doctors’ pay, the Government has completely ignored them and has asked the pay review body to completely exclude junior doctors from its recommendations.
“When even the pay review process – broken as it is – is telling ministers to act, you know something has gone seriously wrong,” they added.
STRIKE ACTION IS ‘WORRYING’
Miriam Deakin, director of policy at NHS Providers said the announcement is ‘deeply worrying’.
“However, the ballot for industrial action by junior doctors is yet to open and it’s important not to pre-empt the outcome.
“Should junior doctors vote for industrial action, trust leaders will do everything they can to minimise disruption and prioritise the safe delivery of care and services for patients.
“Trust leaders are very concerned about the possibility of prolonged or co-ordinated strike action by health unions in the coming months.
“They also understand the factors that have driven junior doctors and other healthcare workers to ballot on industrial action.
“We are reiterating our plea to both the Government and union leaders to get around the table and find an agreed solution, including on pay, as soon as possible.
“Prolonged action is something everyone wants to avoid.”
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