Nearly two-thirds of young doctors in England admit that they have looked for alternative work in the last year and seem increasingly likely to vote for strikes next month, deepening the NHS winter crisis.
The results of a British Medical Association (BMA) survey of 3,819 young doctors in England during November and December, shared with Yoshow that 79 per cent “often think about leaving the NHS”, and 65 per cent “have actively researched leaving the NHS in the last 12 months”.
The BMA, the union of young doctors, urges the Government to reconsider the 2 percent pay raise its members in England are receiving, more than 8 per cent below CPI inflation and less than half the raise other NHS employees have rejected, ahead of their vote for industrial action on January 9. Most doctors are classified as ‘junior’ until they are consultants, GPs or specialists and can lead departments.
Dr Robert Laurenson, Co-Chairman of the BMA Young Doctors Committee, said Yo: “When eight in 10 young doctors say they often think about leaving the NHS, this should be a real wake-up call for the government to come to the table and address our concerns.”
He accused the government of “ignoring our calls to come together”, and the Department of Health and Social Care insisted on sticking to a four-year wage agreement reached. in 2019 when inflation was much lower.
Young doctors in Scotland, who have been given a 4.5 per cent raise by the Scottish government, will vote on possible strike action early next year, saying their figure is “unacceptable under the current circumstances”. Doctors in Wales are also contemplating his first hit in history.
A junior doctor working in an emergency department in the Midlands, who has described his day to day Yo for an in-depth look at working conditionsHe said: “You can see things are getting worse and worse… Most of my colleagues are talking about leaving, not wanting to work within the system anymore and trying to get out before it completely collapses.”
He added: “If wages don’t increase to meet people’s needs, more will leave. That is the most worrying thing. Health care is going to be even more decimated than it is now, which is going to hurt patients. Yes, getting paid more helps me, but it also helps the public because it keeps me at work and it means patients have a doctor.”
A strike by young doctors could wreak further havoc for patients in England, with more nursing strikes scheduled to take place. January 18 and 19 and the action of ambulance workers in January 11 and 23. Nurses and midwives in Scotland can also go on strike after reject payment arrangements.
Pay for young doctors in England fell 26.1 percent in real terms between 2008-09 and 2021-22, which his union says has exacerbated staff shortages, worsening conditions for staff and worsening patient care. Some say they are now struggling to pay rapidly rising fuel, energy and housing bills.
Newly qualified physicians can receive a base fee of just over £14 an hour. This is roughly at the same level as the average hourly wage for all workers in the UK, which was £13.57 in 2021, but the BMA notes that doctors enter their profession saddled with debt from their medical training and that people’s lives depend on their work.
The BMA has asked a pay increase equal to RPI inflation, plus an additional 2 percentwhich currently amounts to about 16 percent.
A Department of Health and Human Care (DHSC) official said in the summer that he would not review the 2019 salary agreement and that next year “will be the right time to consider payment.” The government argues that each additional percentage in pay increases for health workers costs hundreds of millions of pounds at a time when the economy is struggling and public finances are stretched.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “The Secretary for Health and Social Care has made it clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of his key priorities, and that includes working young doctors, whose well-being is of paramount importance.
“Junior doctors have received a pay increase of 8.2% between 2019 and 2023 through the multi-year pay agreement agreed with the BMA. We have also invested an additional £90m to provide higher salaries for the most experienced young doctors, higher allowances for those who work more frequently on weekends and higher pay rates for night shifts.
“We are also taking urgent steps to increase capacity and resilience. This includes an additional £500m to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds, get ambulances back on the road faster, deliver 50,000 more nurses, increase the number of NHS 999 and 111 call handlers and create the equivalent of at least 7,000 beds more.
“There are also record numbers of staff working in the NHS and we have commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan to help recruit and retain more staff.”
There are 9,000 medical positions among the total of 130,000 unfilled positions in the NHS, and more than 20,000 doctors have left the health service in the last year or so.
The BMA’s Dr Laurenson said: “We have a government that has not met the leaders of young doctors and would apparently rather choose strikes this winter than solve the NHS staffing crisis that has left more than seven million patients in waiting lists for care.
“After years of real pay cuts, young doctors are worried about how they can pay their bills, commute to work and keep a roof over their heads. Many young doctors are working to exhaustion just to make ends meet; we know that seven out of ten worked extra shifts in the last year. This will only result in a demoralized and exhausted workforce.
“As more doctors leave, the safety of our patients is put at risk, and the staff who remain in the NHS are becoming increasingly depleted as more and more are required of them. It is a vicious circle that does not solve anything for patients, who are already facing excruciatingly long waits for care.
“The staffing crisis we are seeing across the health service, where we currently have over 130,000 vacancies in secondary care alone, is the direct consequence of staff being undervalued and underpaid for too long.
“Young doctors are the backbone of the NHS and we simply cannot afford to lose them. They are highly-skilled professionals who will look to other industries and countries for better wages and working conditions if this government continues to refuse to value them.
“The only way to break this downward spiral and prevent waiting lists from getting worse is to pay staff fairly and retain them in the health service. For the sake of patients and NHS staff, the government must stop ignoring our calls to come together and show it values young doctors by offering some reasonable practical solutions to the crisis facing the NHS.”