Vol. 15 No. 2 (2022): Carolean Age- A New Dawn

The Ethics of Industrial Action by Doctors

JS Bamrah
Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS FT, Manchester, UK
Indranil Chakravorty
Bapio Institute for Health Research, Bedford, UK
Kamal Mahawar
Sunderland General Hospital, Sunderland, UK

Published 2023-03-11


  • Industrial Action,
  • Junior doctors,
  • Health service

How to Cite

Bamrah, J., Chakravorty, I., & Mahawar, K. (2023). The Ethics of Industrial Action by Doctors. Sushruta Journal of Health Policy & Opinion, 15(2), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.38192/15.2.6


The traditional and majoritarian view of medicine as a vocation rather than a job remains the basic principle that motivates doctors. Nevertheless, over the last two decades, there has been an erosion of their authority and an inability to fulfil the best care they can provide with successive cuts to the NHS and a relative salary reduction. That festering discontentment likely spurred many doctors to seek a route to express their feelings by taking IA. Nevertheless, for many, the ethical turmoil of potentially causing harm to patients from withdrawing services cannot be overemphasised. The conflict between professional duty and personal gain is at its acutest at such times. 

It remains to be seen how this will be reflected in campaign turnouts and on the picket line. Ultimately, full-blown strike action is neither in doctors' nor the government's interest. Patients have long memories, especially as many are still reeling from the injustices of the pandemic, albeit doctors and others on the front line were celebrated as heroes. The media has little regard for the legal case of strikes or any ethical basis. They will record events for posterity, ensuring that stories on both sides are personalised and sensationalised. The real casualty in this could be the NHS, which is again at the forefront for the wrong reasons.

On the other hand, the doctors’ strike actions and those of others in healthcare might, in part, hope that these would wake the public to defend an institution that faces its highest risk of dissolution or damage in its 75 years since Aneurin Bevan gave birth to it.



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