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

Catastrophic NHS strikes inched another step closer today as doctors were given a £2million war chest in preparation for a potential mass walk-out.

The British Medical Association, a union representing 160,000 GPs, consultants, and junior doctors, has warned industrial action is ‘inevitable’.

The organisation, often described as militant, has already demanded huge inflation-busting pay rises for junior doctors. 

Ministers failed to hit a deadline of 5pm today to commit to offering junior doctors a 26 per cent pay rise, paving the way for the first doctors’ strike ballot in years. 

The BMA’s £2m pot will fund the poll of junior doctors and potentially other medical groups in the near future. 

It also created a separate strike fund asking medics and the public to donate to help members who are financially impacted by potential action. 

Junior doctors have inched closer to strike action in echoes of the 2016 industrial dispute which saw them walk off the job multipole times in 2016 (pictured)

What happened the last time junior doctors went on strike? 

Junior doctors planning to strike later this year echoes that of similar industrial action back in 2016.

A contract dispute between junior medics and then health secretary Jeremy Hunt led to doctors withdrawing labour three times.

The dispute was regarding plans to scarp overtime rates for junior doctors on every day except Sunday and instead increasing pay.

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

The dispute resulted in a general strike on January 12, the first such industrial action in 40 years. 

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

On April 26-27 junior doctors withdrew from providing both routine and emergency care, the first time this had ever happened. 

In total the strikes led to the cancellation of 100,000  patient appointments. 

The dispute only formally ended in 2019 when junior doctors were offered an 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years.  

Consultants and GPs are also contemplating industrial action, following what medics have called ‘derisory’ pay offers from Government.

BMA chair Professor Philip Banfield said: ‘This is the first time in its’ long history that the BMA has created a strike fund.

‘It is a sign of our commitment that we are making these resources available.’

He said it represented a ‘significant step forward’.

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

Unions were emboldened following Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget last week, which saw the Government lift a cap on bankers’ bonuses.

The Government has continually cited pressure on the nation’s finances as reasons why it couldn’t offer more than a 4 per cent pay rise to nurses and 4.5 per cent pay rise to most doctors.

If all the ballots come to a head in England, it could represent the largest ever NHS industrial action in its 74-year history.

Other BMA groups like qualified doctors and GPs are also campaigning for pay restoration, previously voting for the union to seek a pay rise of 30 per cent. 

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

Fears of industrial action then were sparked by a disagreement with a Government contract forcing them to see patients on Saturdays and weekday evenings. 

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

Following today’s missed deadline, the BMA’s junior 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’s council before being sent out to members.

Junior doctors wanted the Government to commit to a 26.1 per cent pay rise. They argued this would compensate them for below inflation pay rises they have had since 2008.

Dr Brendan Donnelly, the BMA junior doctors committee deputy chair, said: ‘The Government still has an opportunity to meet with us and negotiate a fair settlement – but if it continues to refuse do so then this Government has failed not just doctors but patients.

‘Following today’s announcement ministers should be in no doubt that we are ready to take action.’

It comes as the Royal College Nursing gears up to ballot 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-blown strike, cancelling of elective procedures, and working to rule.

The last major health service strike was by junior doctors in 2016, with thousands taking to the picket lines to dispute a contract with the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt. 

It marked the first industrial action of its kind in 40 years and saw junior doctors walk out of A&E units and intensive care. Tens of thousands of appointments were cancelled.

The dispute only formally ended in 2019 when junior doctors were offered an 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years.

However, junior doctors argue this deal now needs updating because it was agreed before inflation spiralled to almost double-digit figures.



The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is urging its 300,000-plus members to vote in favour of strike action when ballots open next month.


The chair of the British Medical Association has warned strike action is ‘inevitable’.

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


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

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


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

Members will be balloted for the first time in the CSP’s 100-year history over pay.

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