BMA NI calls on Health minister to present a credible pay offer for consultants to avoid strikes – 92% vote yes for industrial action

by BMA NI media team

Media release from BMA Northern Ireland 

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Monday 10 June 2024
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Consultants in Northern Ireland will strike on 26 June following a resounding YES result in their ballot for industrial action.  

The BMA Northern Ireland consultants committee chair, Dr David Farren, has renewed his call for the health minister to now put forward a credible pay offer for consultants and avoid the strike.  

The results of the ballot, that ended at midday today [Monday 10 June], saw 92% of those eligible to be included in the ballot cast their vote in favour of strike action, clearly demonstrating the strength of feeling in the profession. With a turnout of 69% it shows the strength of feeling.  

BMA has consistently warned that the current workforce crisis in Northern Ireland is likely to get worse, resulting in longer waiting times, as consultants chose to work elsewhere or retire early. The pay disparity also means working in Northern Ireland is unappealing to junior doctors seeking to develop their career and move into consultant roles.  

Take-home pay for consultants in Northern Ireland has fallen by over 30% since 2008/2009; consultants in England have recently accepted a new, better, pay offer; consultants in Wales have started pay talks and consultants in Ireland are paid double what consultants in Northern Ireland earn. 

Speaking about the ballot result, Dr Farren said, “This should be a resounding message to the health minister that he needs to act. We were told that he needed to see what was happening in England before he took any decisions, despite the other nations moving ahead with pay discussions. Now all we can see is that consultants here are moving further away from being paid the same as colleagues in the rest of the UK.  

“Our health service cannot run without doctors. Consultants are ultimately responsible for the care of patients, they train the doctors of the future, they innovate, research and lead. They need to be properly rewarded for what they do.

“We genuinely did not want to have to go this far, but there seems to be no other option and the result clearly demonstrates consultants here have had enough. Over the course of the ballot I have had many consultants come up to me and say they never thought they would be in this position – being balloted for was strike action - but they really cannot take any more.  

“The Minister must now present a credible offer that we can put to our members and hopefully avert a strike on 26 June.” 

Notes to editors

  • This industrial action will take the form of Christmas Day cover. This means that most routine and elective services will be cancelled but full emergency cover will remain in place. The action will last from 7am on Wednesday 26 June to 7am on Thursday 27 June. 
  • BMA announced its planned dates for industrial action six weeks before the potential action so that consultants and their colleagues were able to put in early plans to manage patient lists and prioritise urgent patient care in the event of a successful ballot. We will prioritise patient safety and continue to provide emergency care, in-keeping with the level of services available on Christmas Day.