Medical Protection sets out guidance on factors that members will need to consider regarding industrial action.
On 1 October 2022, the BMA junior doctors committee voted to go to a ballot for industrial action in relation to pay. In the ballot, 98% of votes endorsed calls for industrial action, which is planned for March 2023.
We recognise and respect the strength of feeling this issue has provoked amongst members.
The GMC’s Good Medical Practice does not prevent you from taking part in industrial action, but should you receive a complaint you must be prepared to justify the decisions you have made.
In the event of industrial action, if you are taking part we encourage you to be satisfied that arrangements will be in place to care for patients, as per GMC guidance, which states:
“We expect any doctors choosing to take part in strike action to continue to follow the principles of our guidance, Good medical practice. It highlights the importance of doctors working collaboratively with the healthcare team to keep patients safe, staying within the limits of their competence. “
Should it become clear during any industrial action that patients are at risk in the local area due to inadequate medical cover and doctors are asked in good faith to return to work, you will need to give serious consideration to fulfilling this request as a failure to do so may result in criticism in the event the GMC decides to investigate your actions.
Those not involved in industrial action should ensure they are working within the limits of their competence.
If you feel you are being asked to work outside of the limits of your competence, you should seek support from senior colleagues. In addition it may be necessary to raise concerns, if you believe patient safety is being put at risk, in line with the GMC’s Guidance Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety. The GMC also has a range of materials and tools to help should you need to raise a concern.
If you are participating in industrial action, it is important to ensure that patient safety is not compromised. This is likely to involve a safe handover of care to colleagues with sharing of relevant information.
Good communication with patients will be important: explain that things may run more slowly and reassure them, as they might be anxious if they are in hospital on a strike day.
You must make the care of your patients your first concern. We can offer advice and support with ethical issues that may arise from your professional practice but you should contact your trade union to discuss queries relating to industrial action.