With the threat of strike action this week by junior doctors over proposed changes to their working conditions the British Medical Association (BMA) has said that military medical personnel may have to be called in to make up the subsequent shortfall in services. In a BMA publication entitled “Guide to Safe Picketing” it makes it clear that they would expect assistance from all members of the armed forces to help keep vital medical services functioning. The publication highlights that unlike the civil sector the armed forces are not permitted under law to go on strike.
The armed forces have been called upon many times to support public services at times of industrial action or a shortfall in services. Between 2002 and 2003 the British Army undertook firefighting duties in built up areas when the Fire Brigade’s Union voted to undertake a national strike. In 2008 RAF ambulance crews took to the streets in Gloucestershire to make up for a shortfall in NHS ambulance crews in the area.