Junior doctors strike dates 2023: BMA members begin three-day walkout - junior doctors’ salary explained

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Junior doctors overwhelmingly voted in favour of a 72-hour strike in a dispute over pay and conditions - arguing that the government only has itself to blame.

The NHS is bracing itself as tens of thousands of junior doctors on Monday (13 March) begin their three-day strike over pay and conditions.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) - the doctors’ union - will form picket lines outside hospitals across England in the longest-ever period of industrial action by junior doctors. Care is set to be severely disrupted, with NHS trusts already cancelling thousands of appointments and operations.

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It comes after the union’s 47,500 members voted “overwhelmingly” to strike, with 98% of the 37,000 votes cast in favour of industrial action. They argued that pay for junior doctors has fallen by more than a quarter in real terms since 2008/09, which has made it more difficult to recruit and retain junior doctors - putting further pressure on the NHS.

The BMA has explained it will not provide emergency NHS care during the 72-hour strike, saying trusts will need to arrange their own cover to ensure patient safety. This has prompted the NHS to voice its concern that the walkout will take the disruption caused by recent strikes, such as those by nurses, to the next level - possibly posing a risk to patient safety and harming the tackling of backlogs.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it was “deeply disappointing” that England’s junior doctors had voted in favour of strike action, but co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, said: “The government has only itself to blame, standing by in silent indifference as our members are forced to take this difficult decision.”

The union has urged the Health Secretary to meet doctors and negotiate a solution to avoid strikes - arguing that Barclay is the first Health Secretary for over 50 years to continue to “ignore” all invitations to meet doctors to discuss their pay. The BMA added that this has made attempts to find a negotiated settlement “virtually impossible”.

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Junior doctors are to start balloting for strike action in January.Junior doctors are to start balloting for strike action in January.
Junior doctors are to start balloting for strike action in January. | Kim Mogg

Why are junior doctors going on strike? 

The union said the government has excluded junior doctors in England from the 2022/2023 pay award process as their contract is still subject to a multiple-year pay deal. This went against the advice of the DDRB (Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration) which allows the amount to be revisited if the situation has changed, it said.

As a result of the global pandemic, cost of living crisis, and rising inflation, the union believes the situation has changed.

The BMA said successive governments have overseen 15 years of real-terms pay cuts for junior doctors in England, which amounts to a “staggering and unjustifiable” 26.1% decline in pay since 2008/09. The BMA also said patients are suffering and exhausted staff are burning out and leaving the NHS as a result. However, it argues that the government still “fails to see the crisis in front of it”.

BMA chair of the council, Professor Phil Banfield, said: “The situation is severe. A third of junior doctors are planning to work in another country. Four in ten say that as soon as they can find another job, they will leave the NHS. The health service will simply not be able to cope.

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“For decades the NHS was the envy of the world. But without our doctors’ expertise, the country will get sicker. We will not accept impoverished healthcare for our nation, or acquiesce to those looking to slash pay and drive down living standards for NHS staff. In 2023 we will stand together with patients - an organised workforce ready to act.”

Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairmen of the BMA junior doctors committee, added: “The Prime Minister says his door and that of the Health Secretary are ‘always open’. But after more than a decade of pay cuts, no offer to restore our pay has been made and all our calls to meet and letters to the Health Secretary and his immediate predecessors have been ignored.

“When we are faced with such resolute ongoing silence and there is no agreed settlement on the table, then we are left with no choice but to act.”

What do I do if I have an appointment during the strike?

According to the NHS website, patients will be contacted if their appointment or operation needs to be rescheduled as a result of industrial action. This is likely to be done via text, phone call, or a letter, and you will be offered an alternative date. Trusts have confirmed that those with cancelled appointments will not go to the bottom of waiting lists.

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If you have an appointment or operation during the strike, and have not been contacted by the NHS, you should attend as planned.

How much does a junior doctor earn? 

A NHS doctor’s salary varies according to grade, years in a role, and where the job is based. In the case of ‘junior doctors’, they are qualified doctors in clinical training at a hospital or in general practice. They can be junior doctors for up to eight years in hospital, or for three years as a GP, before becoming consultants.

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the 2016 contract in England for junior doctors removed incremental annual pay rises. Instead their salary increased by larger amounts at so-called nodal points - when junior doctors move up a grade - for example, the first day they work as a speciality register (core training).

For each grade, a junior doctor in England earns pre-tax:

Foundation Doctor Year 1

Stage of training: FY1

  • Nodule point: 1
  • Salary: £29,384

Foundation Doctor Year 2

Stage of training: FY2

  • Nodule point: 2
  • Salary: £34,012

Specialty Registrar (StR) (Core Training)

Stage of training: CT1

  • Nodule point: 3
  • Salary: £40,257

Stage of training: CT2

  • Nodule point: 3
  • Salary: £40,257

Stage of training: CT3

  • Nodule point: 4
  • Salary: £51,017

Specialty Registrar (StR)

(Run-Through Training or Higher Training)/ Specialist Registrar (SpR)

Stage of training: ST1 / SpR1

  • Nodule point: 3
  • Salary: £40,257

Stage of training: ST2 / SpR2

  • Nodule point: 3
  • Salary: £40,257

Stage of training: ST3 / SpR3

  • Nodule point: 4
  • Salary: £51,017

Stage of training: ST4 / SpR4

  • Nodule point: 4
  • Salary: £51,017

Stage of training: ST5 / SpR5

  • Nodule point: 4
  • Salary: £51,017

Stage of training: ST6 / SpR6

  • Nodule point: 5
  • Salary: £58,398

Stage of training: ST7 / SpR7

  • Nodule point: 5
  • Salary: £58,398

Stage of training: ST8 / SpR8

  • Nodule point: 5
  • Salary: £58,398
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