Junior doctors to vote on strike action - British Medical Association

Doctors protesting Image copyright AP

A strike ballot of junior doctors over a contract dispute will start next month and last two weeks, the British Medical Association has announced.

The vote - starting on 5 November - has been expected since the union's leaders agreed to a ballot last month.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the BMA leadership have since met in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

But it now appears more than 50,000 medics will get the chance to vote over whether they want to take action.

The last time doctors went on strike was over a pension dispute in 2012.

The current row is over a new contract, due to be introduced in August 2016.

Junior doctors row

Image copyright PA

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Critics have argued the deal could mean 15% pay cuts for doctors, with "normal hours" re-classed as being from 07:00 to 22:00 from Monday to Saturday.

It means extra payments for unsociable working will only be given outside of these times, rather than for work outside the current arrangements of 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday.

The government has described the current contracts as "outdated" and "unfair", pointing out they were introduced in the 1990s.

Ministers drew up plans to change the contract in 2012 but talks broke down last year.

The government has indicated it will impose the new contract in England next year.

Scotland and Wales have said they do not want to introduce the changes, while Northern Ireland has yet to make a decision.

BMA junior doctors leader, Dr Johann Malawana, said the decision to ballot members had not been "taken lightly".

"The government's refusal to work with us through genuine negotiations and their threat to impose new contracts that we believe are unsafe for patients and unfair for doctors, leaves us with few options," he said.

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