BMA relinquishes ability to take strike action over junior contract

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 10 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6070
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

The BMA has given up its ability to take industrial action over changes to the junior doctor contract in England.

In an email to members on Thursday 10 November, Peter Campbell, interim chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said that the committee had decided to end its current mandate for industrial action. The decision means that a fresh ballot would be needed before any future industrial action.

The phased implementation of the new junior doctor contract began in October, with trainees in obstetrics being the first to move to the new terms and conditions.1

Campbell said, “With the contract being introduced as existing contracts expire, we believe the best way of achieving the best outcome for all our members is to work with the government and NHS Employers to monitor the implementation of the contract and raise additional issues.

“To this end, the committee has taken the decision to end the current mandate for industrial action and re-engage with the government and NHS Employers, as well as work with Health Education England to ensure they implement the programme of improvements to your working lives.”

He added, “Our decision to end the current mandate means that there would need to be a fresh ballot before any future industrial action could take place.”

The BMA’s mandate for strike action has remained live since its ballot of junior doctors in November 2015. Of the 37 155 junior doctor BMA members balloted, 28 305 responded (representing a 76% turnout), and 98% of these voted in favour of strike action.2

Changes are set to be introduced to trade union law later this year that will set a six month time limit for industrial action to take place after a ballot. The changes will also require higher levels of union membership support for industrial action for it to go ahead.2

Campbell said that the junior doctors committee had agreed that ending the mandate was the best way to ensure members’ interests and that it “gives us the best chance to hold both the government and NHS Employers to their commitment that the contract will ensure safe working hours [and] will meet juniors doctors’ training needs, and that the programme of work led by Health Education England to address wider concerns about training is taken forward.”

He said that he wanted to raise junior doctors’ concerns directly with England’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt. “[I] am seeking a meeting with him as a matter of urgency. I will report back to you once I have done so,” said Campbell.

The committee will also engage proactively with the development of all exception reporting systems available, he added.


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