This ethical hub topic shows how our professional standards can be applied and signposts to relevant resources. It does not set new professional standards and is not intended to replace the formal guidance.

Industrial action 

Our position

Doctors are legally entitled to take part in lawful industrial action, including strike action. During strike action, doctors’ employers will have a vital role in planning and preparing for how patients will be cared for. They play an important part in maintaining the continuity of patient care to the highest possible standard.

We expect any doctors choosing to take part in strike action to continue to follow the principles of our guidance, Good medical practice. It highlights the importance of doctors working collaboratively with the healthcare team to keep patients safe, staying within the limits of their competence.

The following sections of Good medical practice are particularly relevant: 

Icon of a set of hands holding a tablet with text

Para 14: You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

(Good medical practice, paragraph 14)

Para 35: You must work collaboratively with colleagues, respecting their skills and contributions.

(Good medical practice, paragraph 35)

Para 44: You must contribute to the safe transfer of patients between healthcare providers and between health and social care providers. This means you must:

a. share all relevant information with colleagues involved in your patients’ care within and outside the team, including when you hand over care as you go off duty, and when you delegate care or refer patients to other health or social care providers.

b. check, where practical, that a named clinician or team has taken over responsibility when your role in providing a patient’s care has ended. This may be particularly important for patients with impaired capacity or who are vulnerable for other reasons.

(Good medical practice, paragraph 44)

Doctors may be faced with challenging situations during strike action, whether or not they're participating directly. In both scenarios, doctors will need to use their professional judgement to assess risk and deliver the best possible care for people.