Joint statement on pay from the chairs of BMA's NI junior doctor, SAS and consultant committees

by BMA Northern Ireland press office

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Friday 16 February 2024

Commenting after this week’s meeting with Department of Health officials on doctors’ pay, the chairs of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, Dr Fiona Griffin, Northern Ireland SAS* committee, Dr Leanne Davison, and Northern Ireland consultants committee, Dr David Farren, said:

"There is undeniable discontent among doctors working in Northern Ireland around pay.

"Years of pay erosion and a lack of meaningful progress on pension reform has coincided with escalating workloads and burnout levels. It is at the centre of a workforce crisis in the profession as many of us are choosing to either leave the health service entirely through early retirement or work elsewhere for better pay and conditions.

"Such is the extent of discontent that junior doctors are currently balloting for strike action, while consultant and SAS doctors (specialist, staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors) are also moving in that direction.

"We have raised this issue for years with our political institutions and the Department of Health with little progress, if at all. With the return of devolution and a written invite from the Minister to "engage" with his departmental officials on pay, we had a renewed sense of hope that meaningful progress would begin on addressing this. After an initial meeting with these officials yesterday, we have been left disappointed.

"We were told that the minimum DDRB-recommended, below-inflation pay uplift of 6% for 2023/24 will be the only pay uplift for doctors and that this will not be awarded until the end of April. We were also informed that, despite health and pay being a devolved matter, any negotiations on further pay uplifts would only happen after ongoing Westminster pay negotiations with doctors in England had concluded.

"This was all presented as a fait accompli with no room for the engagement promised in the Minister’s original meeting invite letter. It has left us extremely disappointed and disheartened, and further adds to the sense that the role doctors play in the health service is simply not valued.

"Yesterday’s announcement of £685 million for public sector pay may be seen as a constructive to some. However, it will not quell the levels of discontent among our members, which is palpable and growing by the day.

"Only an above inflation pay award and a commitment to work towards full pay restoration will solve the medical workforce crisis we have in Northern Ireland. We urge the Department of Health to meaningfully engage with us to achieve this as the health service depends on it.”

Notes to editors

*specialist, staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors.