Industrial action in the NHS - advice and FAQs for members

Multiple unions are taking industrial action in the NHS, or are formally balloting members on strike action. As a College we are not involved in contracts or pay discussions, and taking industrial action is a personal choice. We have put together these frequently asked questions for members with key links for further information.
Last modified
6 March 2023


RCPCH is aware that multiple health sector unions are working with their members to take industrial action or are in the process of balloting members. This follows the announcement in July 2022 of the below inflation pay increases for staff, the rising cost of living and real pressures on staff.

Some of our members have raised questions with us about what industrial action means for them. As you will likely be aware, we do not have a role in contracts or negotiating pay and conditions – but we have outlined the key information and signposts to other organisations for further support. 

This web page contains: 

  • links to advice from the regulators
  • signposting to the range of unions' websites and key information from them 
  • answers as far as possible to the frequently asked questions 
  • link to our practical advice for trainees who are worried about industrial action 

We hope you will find this helpful at this time, and we will keep this web page updated as and when we have any further information.

Advice from the regulators

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • The majority of our UK members will be regulated by the General Medical Council. The GMC set out a short briefing on their ethical hub with guidance around industrial action.
  • This briefing highlights the Good Medical Practice guideline and key considerations, responsibilities of employers, how to tackle challenging situations using professional judgement and working collaboratively with teams.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

  • The NMC, as the regulatory body for nurses, nursing associates and midwives, has published a briefing for these health professionals with FAQs on their views around the Code and fitness to practice. It also highlights that employers will provide guidance for staff who work during the time. 

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

Additional key organisations and resources

The British Medical Association (BMA)

  • The BMA has confirmed that junior doctors and trainees voted for industrial action in their ballot from 9 January to 20 February, with a 77% turnout and 98% voting ‘Yes’. Updates can be found on their website and should be referred to. 
  • You can find the BMA’s advice to members here. At the time of writing this webpage, it includes the BMA’s aims, information around the ballot, strike advice and FAQs for junior doctors and trainees, information on striking and maternity pay, on the day of action, next steps.  
  • On 6 March 2023 the BMA announced that consultant members in England have voted for industrial action in their ‘consultative’ informal ballot. 86% have voted for industrial action, with a turnout of 60%. They are calling on government to start negotiations by 3 April otherwise a formal ballot process will commence later in the month. You can read more on the BMA's website.

The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

  • The RCN balloted members in late 2022, and have taken forward their first stage of strikes across the UK. A further stage of strikes in England this March has been “paused”, as “the Government and Royal College of Nursing has agreed to enter a process of intensive talks”. You can read the RCN press release here. 
  • You can find out more on the RCN website and on their 'strike hub' which contains a list of where strike action will take place, answers to FAQs, information for volunteers, and wider.

NHS Employers 

Frequently asked questions

What is RCPCH’s role in industrial action?

  • As a Royal College, our core focus is on providing standards of care, education, training and supporting our members with their lifelong careers – as well as supporting equitable health of children and young people across the UK and globally. 
  • Within the remit that we hold, and as a charitable organisation, we have continued to call on Governments across the UK for change, including new evidenced-based workforce plans, actions to tackle child poverty across the UK, support for safeguarding and action on rising waiting lists and mental health post pandemic. You can find out more about these on our news pages.

Where can I find out more information on doctors’ contracts and pay negotiations?

  • In terms of background, the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) is the independent body which makes recommendations on the remuneration of doctors and dentists in the NHS. These recommendations are sent to the Governments across the UK. The DDRB published its recommendations in a 238-page report (PDF) in July 2022. The Government accepted the recommendations and offered a below inflation 4.5% pay award to some groups of doctors for 2022/23. More information on this year’s pay round and what this means for doctors in the NHS can be found on the BMA website.

I am on a work visa - can I take industrial action?

  • Everyone in the UK has a right to take lawful industrial action, as outlined and defined by government in their FAQs. We suggest you speak with your union to discuss any personal circumstances or questions in more detail, and potentially your employer. The BMA has outlined some key information for VISA holders, including a phone number and online chat you can use if you have any further questions beyond those on their website. 
  • Furthermore, the BMA has held a webinar with a legal expert firm to support junior doctors and trainees who are international medical graduates. This can be watched on their website here.

Practical advice for trainees and SAS doctors 

  • Our Trainees Committee has received a number of specific questions raised by paediatric trainees and SAS doctors about the potential impact of industrial on training. We therefore put together some specific information to help paediatric trainees navigate the current environment, including:
    • information to support trainees as nurses and advanced clinical practitioners consider strike action 
    • some advice from paediatricians on how trainees can continue their training during any periods of industrial action, or severe service disruption 
    • consideration of financial pressures and the rising cost of living.