Two-thirds of junior doctors in England have sought alternatives to working in the national health service in recent months, a survey has shown.
The results come ahead of the British Medical Association’s ballot of junior doctors, set to open on January 9, asking whether they support strike action.
Junior doctors, who received a 2 per cent pay rise this year, have seen their salaries over the past 15 years reduce in real terms by more than a quarter, the union said. This refers to all doctors until they become consultants, GPs or specialists.
A poll conducted by the BMA on 3,819 junior doctors in England during November and December showed 79 per cent “often think about leaving the NHS”, while 65 per cent “have actively researched leaving the NHS in the last 12 months”, according to the i newspaper.
The NHS, still reeling from massive backlogs created by the Covid-19 pandemic, has this year been rocked by strikes, and the threat of further action remains.
Thousands of ambulance workers across England and Wales walked out in the run up to Christmas in a bitter dispute over pay.
After the Royal College of Nursing’s pay request of 19 per cent for nurses was rejected by the government, more strike dates were added for January. The announcement came after two days of strike action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the lead up to Christmas.
Nurses strike in the UK - in pictures
Industrial action is also being considered by doctors in Scotland and Wales amid the cost of living crisis.
BMA Scotland announced earlier this month its junior doctors would be balloted in the first quarter of 2023 on striking in a battle over pay.
The organisation’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee said on December 8 it had “reluctantly entered into a trade dispute with the Scottish government” following talks over pay failing to reach an agreement.
Dates will be outlined in January for industrial action in the NHS in Scotland as staff claim the government in Holyrood has imposed a pay offer despite overwhelming rejection from three health unions.
Days before Christmas, the BMA Cymru announced doctors in Wales were considering going on strike for the first time.
Almost two-thirds of the just under 1,000 hospital doctors surveyed by the union this month said they would be willing to take some form of industrial action, including strikes, over their current pay and conditions.
The BMA’s Welsh Council chairwoman, Iona Collins, on December 22 called the result of the survey “upsetting to all” and said it is “gut-wrenching for doctors to consider walking away from work”.
Leading doctors recently warned the NHS was “in danger of complete collapse”, with a poll revealing more than two in five of the most senior hospital medics are planning to leave in the next year.
The survey by the BMA found that 44 per cent of hospital consultants in England plan to leave the NHS, or take a break from it, over the next year.
Among consultant surgeons, the figure was 50 per cent.
Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA consultants' committee, said that NHS doctors “are on their knees” following “years of demoralising real-terms pay cuts and chronic staffing shortages”.