‘We’re striking, Jeremy!’ – Junior Doctors Ballot for Action

‘We’re striking, Jeremy!’ – Junior Doctors Ballot for Action

By Ann Orr

The British Medical Association (BMA) has never in its history brought junior doctors out on strike. As we go to press, they are balloting their members in England for just such action. This could result in a strike of junior doctors across England for 24 hours on 1 December with only emergency cover provided during this time. An all-out strike is set to follow on two further days later in the month. The fact that it has gone this far is a clear indication of the seriousness of the assault and the fact that junior doctors’ backs are against the wall.

One anonymous junior doctor writing in the Guardian said that she couldn’t afford the fees for her registration with the General Medical Council or for the exams she is required to sit. She works part-time and has a 100 mile commute as she can’t afford to live closer to the hospital. She doesn’t see her kids who live with her for 5-day stretches and is now facing a 30% pay cut. She simply cannot cope – and she isn’t the only one.  Below the article, the Guardian has provided contact details for the Samaritans for anyone affected by the issues raised in the article.

The new contract that Jeremy Hunt is set to impose requires junior doctors to work on average 30% more, for which Hunt has promised an 11% pay rise in basic pay. The BMA however, has found that their members will face a pay cut in real terms of 26%. Presently, the changes would only affect junior doctors working in England.

Junior doctors have been clear in this dispute; it is about their pay and conditions but fundamentally this dispute is about their ability to look after their patients and the safety of every one of us who has to avail of NHS services. Overworked, underpaid, tired and burnt out doctors may help speed up the Conservative’s agenda of privatisation and breakdown of the NHS but there are no positives for ordinary people or NHS staff.

Hunt has reportedly written to 45,000 junior doctors across England to urge them to not go on strike. This shows that he knows what is at stake but also demonstrates that he is worried about the effect a strike could have. An escalation of action by junior doctors must be supported by other staff in the NHS as well as the general public. This is crucial to defending the NHS and in the struggle for high quality health care, free at the point of use.