Consultants in Northern Ireland to be balloted for industrial action

by BMA Northern Ireland media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland 

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Thursday 25 April 2024
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Consultants in Northern Ireland are to be balloted on industrial action, the BMA has announced. The ballot will open on 7 May 2024 for five weeks.

Over recent weeks representatives from BMA Northern Ireland’s consultants committee met with the Department of Health to discuss their concerns over the continuing erosion of consultant pay and the impact this is having on consultant recruitment and retention, and the subsequent effect this has on patient care, and to seek a solution to these issues.

With a new pay deal for consultants in England, pay talks ongoing in Scotland and Wales and better pay already available in Ireland BMA Northern Ireland consultants committee chair Dr David Farren said it was ‘imperative’ that consultants here did not fall further behind their colleagues.

Commenting on the decision to ballot for strike action Dr Farren said, “We really feel we have been left with no alternative but to strike. Morale is at an all-time low among consultants here; we do not feel valued for the complex, challenging and stressful work we undertake, and we do not deserve to be paid less than colleagues in the rest of the UK or Ireland for doing the same job. In fact, given the crisis in our health service the job is arguably even harder here. It is imperative that we secure at least the same terms and conditions for consultants here.

“We asked consultants in Northern Ireland last year were they willing to strike, and they were clear they were; 77% of those who responded said they were willing to take industrial action.

“But we have held off moving to a full ballot in the hope that with a new Executive and Health Minister in place we could make some progress and address this issue, but unfortunately we have not been able to come to agreement with them.

“The Minister has said that he will apply last years’ DDRB uplift of 6%, but doctors here are still waiting for that to be paid. We have been told it might be in the June pay run, just before the 2024-25 DDRB recommendation is made, so nearly a year late, all of which contributes to consultants feeling totally devalued.

“We will now ballot consultants with a view to taking industrial action. This is not the action we had hoped we would have to take but we have been left with no other option. If we don’t do something now to fix our pay, then what we will see is the continued loss of doctors from our health service and a system that will no longer be able to care for patients.”

The ballot for consultant members will open on Tuesday 7 May for five weeks, closing on Monday 10 June.

Notes to editors

  1. The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
  2. Consultants who are BMA members will be balloted for industrial action.
  3. There are approx. 1927 WTE consultants in Northern Ireland.
  4. Consultants are senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine and are listed on the GMC’s specialist register. They have clinical responsibilities and administrative responsibilities in managing SAS and junior doctors.
  5. A further announcement will be made on the dates and form of any industrial action to be taken in the event of a successful ballot outcome.
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