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Disastrous NHS strikes inch another step closer as BMA gives doctors a £2million war chest

The young medics moved closer to the strike echoing the 2016 labor dispute which saw them quit multi-pole work once in 2016 (pictured)

Catastrophic NHS strikes came one step closer today as medics were handed a £2million war chest in preparation for a possible mass walkout.

The British Medical Association, a union representing 160,000 GPs, consultants and junior doctors, warned industrial action was “inevitable”.

The organization, often described as militant, has previously demanded huge anti-inflationary pay rises for young doctors.

Ministers missed a 5pm deadline today to pledge to offer doctors in training a 26 per cent pay rise, setting the stage for doctors’ first strike ballot in years.

The BMA’s £2m pot will fund the Young Doctors Survey and potentially other medical groups in the near future.

He also created a separate strike fund asking doctors and the public to donate to help members who are financially affected by a potential action.

The young medics moved closer to the strike echoing the 2016 labor dispute which saw them quit multi-pole work once in 2016 (pictured)

The young medics moved closer to the strike echoing the 2016 labor dispute which saw them quit multi-pole work once in 2016 (pictured)

What happened the last time young doctors went on strike?

Young doctors planning to strike later this year echo those of a similar industrial action in 2016.

A contract dispute between junior medics and then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt led medics to stop work three times.

The dispute centered on plans to cut overtime rates for doctors in training every day except Sundays and raise wages instead.

But many young doctors felt the change would result in a net loss.

The dispute culminated in a general strike on January 12, the first industrial action of its kind in 40 years.

This was then repeated on February 10 and March 9 and 10.

On April 26 and 27, young doctors stopped providing routine and emergency care, the first time this had happened.

In total, the strikes resulted in the cancellation of 100,000 patient appointments.

The dispute only officially ended in 2019 when the junior doctors were offered an 8.2% pay rise over four years.

Consultants and GPs are also considering industrial action, following what doctors have described as ‘paltry’ government wage offers.

BMA Chairman Professor Philip Banfield said: “This is the first time in its long history that the BMA has set up a strike fund.

“It is a sign of our commitment that we are making these resources available.”

He said it was a “significant step forward”.

Other NHS staff union groups are also on a war footing, with nurses, midwives, physiotherapists considering industrial action over pay.

Unions were emboldened after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget last week saw the government lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

The government continually cited pressure on the country’s finances as the reason it could not offer more than a 4% pay rise for nurses and a 4.5% pay rise for most doctors.

If all the ballots come to a climax in England, it could represent the biggest industrial action by the NHS in its 74-year history.

Other BMA groups, such as qualified doctors and general practitioners, are also campaigning for pay restoration, previously voting for the union to demand a 30% pay rise.

Family doctors also called on the profession to ‘channel their inner Mike Lynch’, the railroad union leader behind this summer’s disruptive rail strikes, in fiery scenes at the union’s annual meeting in June.

Fears of industrial action were then sparked by a disagreement with a government contract requiring them to see patients on Saturdays and weeknights.

The BMA is also calling for reforms to the hated NHS pension scheme, which they say forces doctors to cut their hours or retire early, contributing to record care backlogs and the appointment crisis.

Following today’s missed deadline, the BMA Young Doctors Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss next steps.

Any decision to hold a ballot for industrial action must then be approved by the union council before being sent to members.

The young doctors wanted the government to commit to a 26.1% salary increase. They argued it would compensate them for the below inflation pay increases they have had since 2008.

Dr Brendan Donnelly, vice-chairman of the BMA’s Young Doctors Committee, said: ‘There is always an opportunity for the government to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement – but if they continue to refuse to do so, this government failed not only the doctors but the patients.

“Following today’s announcement, ministers should be in no doubt that we are ready to act.”

It comes as the Royal College Nursing prepares to vote members on industrial action next week, with the Royal College of Midwives also preparing a similar poll.

Industrial action by NHS staff could involve a full-scale strike, the cancellation of elective procedures and working to govern.

The last major health service strike was that of young doctors in 2016, with thousands of people on the picket lines to challenge a contract with then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

It marked the first such industrial action in 40 years and saw junior doctors leave A&E and intensive care units. Tens of thousands of appointments have been cancelled.

The dispute only officially ended in 2019 when the junior doctors were offered an 8.2% pay rise over four years.

However, the junior doctors argue that this deal now needs to be updated as it was agreed before inflation hit near double-digits.

WHAT PARTS OF THE NHS COULD HIT?

Nurses

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is urging its more than 300,000 members to vote in favor of strike action when the polls open next month.

Doctors

The president of the British Medical Association has warned that a strike is “inevitable”.

It could see 160,000 doctors, consultants and GPs come out.

Midwives

The Royal College of Midwives will put the industrial action to a vote of its 50,000 members.

Two-thirds have already said they would be ready to strike in a preliminary poll.

Physiotherapists

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said more than eight in 10 of its 60,000 members were ready to strike.

Members will be elected for the first time in the CSP’s 100 year history on compensation.

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