Tens of thousands of doctors plan to stage three days of industrial action across in England in December as part of a row over changes to their contracts. The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents around 30,000 of the medics, said 98% of the junior doctors who voted in the ballot backed the walkout.
The union also revealed that 28,305 – or more than 76% of the medics – turned out to have a say in the historic ballot. The move means junior NHS doctors will only provide emergency care on 1 December and the medics will stage a total walkout from 8am to 5pm GMT on 8 and 16 December.
The strike will come as the dispute with the government over changes to junior doctors' contracts continues. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has offered the medics an 11% pay rise and argued that the doctors would be better off under the new work agreement.
However, the BMA and its members have argued that the reforms would be detrimental to junior doctors and the changes raised safety concerns. NHS doctor Tom Riddington previously told IBTimes UK: "As the new contract stands, the hardest-working junior doctors are preparing for a pay cut. The protections that prevent mistakes being made when doctors work dangerously long hours will be removed."
Hunt launched a last-ditch plea to the BMA before the strike ballot closed on 18 November. The minister urged Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the BMA's junior doctors' committee, to return to negotiations.
"I repeat our guarantees that no junior doctor working within legal limits will see their pay cut and that none will be required to work longer hours – in fact, to improve doctors' working conditions we are reducing the maximum number of hours that can be worked in any one week," the health secretary wrote in a letter to the committee.
"I continue to believe this is a mission on which we can work together, including by negotiating a new contract which is fairer for doctors as well as safer for patients. The current contract does not fairly reward staff or protect patients Therefore I urge you once against to return to negotiations and help us to deliver a solution which works for all parties."
But the strike ballot result clearly shows that the junior doctors have rejected Hunt's plea and now plan to walk out in December.