BMA SCOTLAND: The status quo of devaluing doctors can go on no longer

Press release from BMA Scotland

Location: Scotland
Published: Friday 19 August 2022
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The level of “dissatisfaction, disillusionment and outright anger amongst many doctors” shows that they simply won’t accept the status quo of repeated poor pay awards any longer, the outgoing Chair of BMA Scotland said today.

Dr Lewis Morrison was speaking as the BMA revealed the headline results of a survey of more than 3,100 doctors on their views following this year’s pay award.

Last month, the Scottish Government awarded doctors 4.5% - which equates to a substantial pay cut in the face of rapidly rising inflation and was below the level offered to other NHS staff, which their unions have rejected.

The survey – which was conducted for two weeks immediately post the announcement of the pay award - showed:

  • Almost 90% of respondents feel this year’s pay uplift is too low.
  • Three quarters say this pay uplift has further decreased their morale working in the NHS.
  • 58% of those who responded say they are now more likely to leave the NHS as a result of this pay uplift.
  • 88% of respondents feel that their contribution to the NHS was not recognised by the DDRB – the pay review body - recommendation of 4.5% which the Government then applied to doctors.

Looking at next steps, 78% of those who responded said they would be willing to take some form of industrial action in order to deliver the improved pay that is required. 

Commenting on the survey results, Dr Morrison, who is the outgoing Chair of BMA Scotland until the end of August, said:

“The level of dissatisfaction, disillusionment and indeed outright anger amongst many doctors that this survey shows is clear.

“It puts the Scottish Government on warning that the status quo for doctors in Scotland is no longer acceptable and in truth hasn’t been for some time.

“This survey was about this year’s pay uplift which in itself was completely unacceptable and amounted to massive real terms pay cut. But it’s important to remember the wider context – where doctors have suffered years of pay erosion and are bearing the brunt of trying to care for patients in an NHS that is basically collapsing around them. And that’s after more than two years of heroic efforts on the frontline of the pandemic.

“Like many other public sector workers, doctors are now clearly saying enough is enough – we need action to make our working lives better – and there’s no doubt that pay is one of the key starting points.

“On that basis we hope the Scottish Government will now finally wake up to the crisis in the medical workforce and take serious action, starting with better pay awards as part of an urgently required plan to address years of pay erosion. We also need action on pension taxation which is still forcing too many senior doctors out of the workforce and across a myriad of issues, both large and small, which will finally make the NHS a better place to work. Without all of this, we risk losing more and more doctors, vacancies becoming even worse, and therefore making any kind of recovery of our NHS from its current parlous state impossible.”

On next steps, Dr Morrison said:

“On the basis of this survey, myself and Dr Iain Kennedy – who is chair elect of Scottish Council and will take over from me at the end of August, have joined with all the chairs of committees across BMA Scotland and today are writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Health seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the immediate need for action.

“While that is ongoing, members on the committees that represent each individual separate branch of practice – so that is junior doctors, consultants, GPs, and Staff and Specialist doctors – will be considering and discussing the implications for their own members and their own next steps. As the pay award will impact on doctors at different stages of their careers, it’s only right that each committee is allowed to proceed on that basis.  

“But if action isn’t forthcoming urgently to set out how the Scottish Government will address the need for change, we will all be guided by members on the next steps, and while it will ultimately be up to each committee on how to proceed, I would expect all options, including different types of industrial action and leaving the DDRB process will be on the table. Of course, no one would ever take industrial action lightly and it would only be a last resort when other avenues have been exhausted. But it is clear from our survey that this is a live option, and members are willing to consider taking a variety of types of industrial action, up to and including strike action if required as a last resort.”

Notes to editors

The figures in this release are based on a survey of more than 3,100 doctors conducted between July 20th and Aug 5th. Further details of the survey will be provided in due course.

Dr Lewis Morrison is the outgoing chair of BMA Scotland, but remains in post until August 30th. Following that point, Dr Iain Kennedy will take over following his recent election.