College statement on planned industrial action in England

The College notes the imminent planned industrial action by consultants and junior doctors in England.

After a ballot, the BMA announced that consultants in England are scheduled to participate in 2 consecutive days of industrial action: 20 July and 21 July. The result of the ballot was 86% in favour of industrial action, from a turnout of 71%. The BMA advised that industrial action will take the form of Christmas Day cover. This means that elective services would be cancelled but full emergency cover will remain in place.

Previously, the BMA announced that junior doctors in England are set to participate in 6 consecutive days of industrial action, from 6.59am on Thursday 13 July until 7am on Tuesday 18 July. The UK Government had offered a pay uplift of 5% for junior doctors, however, this was rejected – with the BMA stating that the rise was not "credible" and that pay has not kept up with inflation.

While the College is not a trades union, and as such does not participate directly in negotiations about terms of service, we are urging talks between the BMA and the UK Government to continue.

Commenting, Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

Nobody who takes an interest in the NHS will be surprised by this result, which mirrors that already seen in ballots of junior colleagues and the strength of feeling amongst consultants, which has been made clear to us.

However, its significance cannot be overestimated - the fact that the majority of the most experienced, highly trained and senior doctors in the NHS are prepared to withdraw their labour strongly underlines the seriousness of the current situation.

Clearly, a strike in the middle of summer, when many consultants will already be on leave, could be problematic for the health service. This is a potentially concerning prospect for patients. The College is clear that industrial action must not jeopardise the safety of patients, and we know that individual consultants will make their own assessments in relation to this.

However, doctors of all ages and across all stages of their careers in England have now clearly indicated their intense dissatisfaction with their terms of service and the effect of those terms on their workload and their desire to continue to work in the NHS.

This has profound implications for the longer term patient care and stability of the NHS. As such, the resolution of these disputes must be given the highest possible priority. We urge a negotiated solution that avoids industrial action.

Professor Sunil Bhandari, Vice President for England and Wales, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh added:

The NHS continues to strive to deliver the best care possible in the midst of huge staff vacancies, an increasing exodus of staff and burnout which can last for years.

There remains a significant amount of goodwill and dedication by NHS workers but the recent overwhelming vote by consultants clearly expresses the concerns of doctors in trying to deliver a first class service for all, free and timely for all patients.  Constructive discussions are in urgent need.


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