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Industrial action to continue as new mandate sees overwhelming junior doctor support

The NHS will face further industrial action from junior doctors between April and September after 98% voted to continue striking.

The BMA’s mandate for industrial action had ended after junior doctors undertook a five-day strike at the end of February – the tenth round in this current pay dispute which began in March 2023.

This new ballot gives the BMA a new mandate between 3 April and 19 September 2024. It also approved the use of ‘action short of strike’, which is when employees continue to work but do not perform some of their duties.

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ’It has now been a year since we began strike action. That is a year of strikes too many.

‘The Government believed it could ignore, delay and offer excuses long enough that we would simply give up. That attitude has now led to the NHS wasting £3bn covering the strikes. This is more than double the cost of settling our whole claim. And as we see in the results of today’s [20 March] ballot, delaying tactics will not work: doctors are still determined to see their pay cuts reversed, and they are willing to keep striking another six months to achieve that.’

They also called on the Government to come forward with a ‘credible offer on pay’.

‘No doctor wants to be on strike for a second longer than they have to. But it took us 15 years of declining pay to get here’, they added.

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Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the renewal of the mandate was ‘extremely disappointing’.

‘More disruption is the last thing that our members want when they are trying to tackle long waiting lists and improve performance across urgent and emergency care, mental health and community services,’ he said.

‘Health leaders will also be worried about the impact action short of a strike could have on services. The NHS faces wide staffing gaps and, unfortunately, can need to rely on the goodwill of staff to fill vital rota gaps and maintain patient safety. Action such as working to rule could pile immense pressure on to already stretched rotas.’

He called on both the government and the BMA junior doctors committee to restart negotiations to find a solution.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery added that the news marks ‘another worrying escalation in this lengthy dispute’.

‘With today’s results underlining the sheer strength of feeling among junior doctors, trust leaders are now facing anxious waits on three fronts with consultants voting on whether to accept their new deal, and specialist, associate specialist and specialty doctors being surveyed on their rejected deal,’ she added.

‘Alongside the nearly 1.5m appointments delayed since industrial action began, strikes are expected to cost the NHS an estimated £3bn. We cannot go on like this. Politicians and unions must urgently find a way to resolve all disputes for the sake of patients, staff and the NHS.’

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication Healthcare Leader.

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