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ATDG: Junior doctors industrial action statement

The health service is facing an unprecedented level of demand and pressure.
The workload has increased exponentially across all departments. Healthcare staff, including doctors in training, are working tirelessly to meet these demands and maintain the vital service that the NHS provides, both in primary and secondary care. The pandemic and the associated backlog that it has created have made this increasingly difficult to achieve, putting increased pressure on an already tired and overstretched workforce, and exacerbating pre-existing difficulties including workforce numbers and financial pressures.

Doctors in training across all grades, stages of training and specialties, are an integral part of the current and future NHS staff collective who are working tirelessly and continuously to look after patients as best they can, often with limited resources and a lack of sufficient staffing. The impact cannot be underestimated. Training has been significantly disrupted as a result of these increased pressures, with service provision taking priority. The numbers of trainees experiencing or at risk of burnout have never been higher, and there has been a significant impact on trainee well-being. Doctors in training encompass a crucial component of the ‘next generation’ of the health service; without them, it would have an uncertain future.

In the midst of these challenging circumstances, doctors in training have been voting in a ballot organised by the British Medical Association (BMA) to decide whether or not to engage with industrial action, in an ongoing dispute with the Government regarding pay restitution. It is not within the remit of the Academy Trainee Doctors’ Group (ATDG) to comment or work on issues related to pay and conditions. However, pay is only one of many concerns felt by doctors in training; there are others that will have contributed to their decision in this vote and that is where we, the ATDG, are devoting our efforts to help. These include:

  • Suboptimal working conditions,
  • The significant costs of training (including mandatory courses and examinations),
  • The lack of a reliable digital infrastructure to support clinical work and training,
    The deficiency of trainee numbers and difficulties retaining existing trainees,
  • Variations in access to training across the UK,
  • Inequalities and discrimination faced by some trainee groups, and
  • A lack of recognition for the personal costs of trainee commitment to support
    their specialties.

As the representatives of junior doctors across the four nations, the ATDG support all of our colleagues in training and recognise the commendable effort that they devote, on a daily basis, to help their patients and navigate these challenges. We know that change can and will happen, and will be vital to ensure we support our NHS for the benefit of all members of our society as well as maintaining and supporting a healthy and happy workforce. We continue to work with our stakeholders, including the medical royal colleges, statutory education bodies, and allied trainee committees to bring about the much-needed changes to the system to improve the working lives and training for all junior doctors now and in the future.

21 February 2023