Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Voices from the picket lines: junior doctors speak out

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 15 March 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p598

Rapid Response:

Re: Voices from the picket lines: junior doctors speak out

Dear Editor

I would like to provide a counter argument to the BMA narrative that the current strike action is the correct and only way to respond to the significant relative reduction in pay over time and other issues facing junior doctors.

I am very disappointed by this strike action. It has been acknowledged by the BMA that this strike is harmful to patients. How could it not be? That on its own should be enough for doctors who have taken a Hippocratic oath to recognise it is morally unacceptable.

Not only is it harmful to patients it is also harmful to the NHS institution as we know it, it simply hastens and encourages progression to a more privatised model.

It causes damage for professional relationships, I for one have been saddened by how easily my colleagues have walked off the job leaving vulnerable children and families at risk.

But our junior doctor colleagues are not entirely to blame. The vast majority I believe are simply naive, poorly informed and badly led.

The BMA junior doctor committee leadership are woefully underprepared and inexperienced to lead strike actions against a Conservative government. They have been completely outmanoeuvred, hardly holding any of the media coverage and have been isolated from negotiations with other health care groups.

Information for junior doctors prior to the ballot was grossly biased, focusing mainly on pay grievance, and not covering any of the negative affects or risks, or likely chance of success. If this had been a consultation for a surgical procedure it would not have met the basics of informed consent.

Going forward, I would like to see junior doctor colleagues refuse to take part in strike action which so clearly and significantly causes harm to patients.

A rolling strike pattern, impacting on elective lists, clinics and routine procedures, perhaps a day a month would be less harmful to patients and would hold the public opinion and media attention better. A clearer list of key issues not focused primarily on pay but on other priorities, such as medical school places, specialist training support, LTFT working, reduction in university fees etc would help facilitate negotiation.

If we do not see a change in direction and there is a commitment to a further 3 day walk out I fear we will be fundamentally changing what it means to be a doctor in the UK. We will no longer be the caring profession.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 March 2023
Brian Shields
Paediatric Consultant