Medics are threatening strike action over pay amid fears that the Covid crisis could lead to a winter of discontent.
A motion at the British Medical Association’s annual conference on Monday will call for a survey of members about action to boost pay levels, including the option of industrial action.
The motion – proposed by the BMA’s Yorkshire Regional Council - states: “That this meeting acknowledges the significant work of UK doctors and medical students in fighting the Covid pandemic and that this work was performed on a background of sustained real-terms pay erosion for doctors in the UK.”
It calls on the union to “survey members as to what actions they believe the BMA should take next, in regard to tackling this real-terms pay erosion, including the option of industrial action”.
In July the Government announced that doctors would get a 2.8 per cent pay rise.
But the motion calls for a “significant above inflation pay rise to compensate for a decade of freezes and sub-inflation pay rises.
It comes as new guidance from the General Medical Council says medics who made serious blunders during the pandemic will be “unlikely” to face punishment if their actions seemed reasonable.
The guidance says that if medics made mistakes while working in unusual circumstances, in the context of inconsistent advice, or using means such as remote consultations, they may not face questions about their “fitness to practice”.
And it says that they are unlikely to face a hearing if “on the face of it” it appears that their actions were reasonable in the circumstances.
The watchdog said concerns about doctors “will be considered in the context of the pandemic and, in certain circumstances and where there are no risks to patients or to public confidence, some issues might not put into question a doctor’s fitness to practice.”
“Examples could include concerns about clinical treatment where guidelines were unclear, or a doctor working outside their usual area of practice with limited or no support or guidance to do so safely.”
The guidance lists a range of situations where blunders may not result in disciplinary processes being followed.
These include if “the doctor was unable to see a patient in the usual way, for example, undertaking remote consultations using video rather than face to face”.
It also says medics would not be blamed for choosing the wrong course of treatment.
A case would not go ahead if “the concern relates solely to the specific choice of treatment by a doctor.” Doctors would not fail action for failing to wear PPE, in the context of diminishing stocks, it says.
The new guidance suggests a limited range of situations which could see medics face penalties.
These include if they “acted in a reckless manner which presented a serious risk to patient safety during the pandemic”.
Doctors who continued to work despite knowing or suspecting they had Covid could also face consequences, it warns.