The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has announced that it is surveying its 7,000+ NHS members to see whether there is enough strength of feeling to pursue a formal strike ballot.

For trade union members to strike, at least 50% of eligible members must vote, at least 40% of eligible members must vote ‘yes’ and a majority of votes must be for ‘yes’.

Paul Day, director of the PDA, said that the survey would be compared to those thresholds to help the PDA determine what the likely result of a formal ballot would be.

Other unions had struggled to reach the 50% turnout test threshold, he added. For example, the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) ballot, which closed this month, was unsuccessful in England – because even though over 10,000 members voted for industrial action (88% of those who voted), turnout was only 47%.

Mr Day added: ‘Like all health professionals, pharmacists will be evaluating their professional responsibilities for patient care, alongside their need for fair pay, and we understand if we don’t find a majority in favour of taking action, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily happy with the proposed pay and in either scenario we will continue to act in their interests.

‘As a completely pharmacist trade union, it is up to pharmacists to shape how their union responds.’

When PDA members were surveyed on the issue in the summer, a majority of those voting rejected the pay settlement offered by the NHS and voted in favour of industrial action. However, the turnout of that survey was not high enough to proceed to a formal ballot for strike action.

However, the PDA said that ‘the general situation has evolved with strong public support for those who are taking strike action in the NHS’.

The survey results will direct the decision of the union over balloting, it added, and asked all PDA members employed by the NHS to read the communication which was emailed to them and respond to the survey before 3 January.

PDA union national officer, Paul Moloney said: ‘Whether they want to take industrial action, do not want to take action, or are unsure, our ask for members in the NHS is to complete the survey and let us know.’

He added that if there were to be a subsequent ballot, it would be essential that all employment records were up to date, and requested that PDA members access their ‘MyPDA’ portal and update their membership record if necessary.

With some nursing staff striking on various dates this month, pharmacy leaders have warned that community pharmacy is not in a position to relieve pressure on the NHS by taking on additional patient care during NHS strike action.