Junior doctors in Northern Ireland to be balloted for industrial action

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland 

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Thursday 28 September 2023
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Northern Ireland junior doctors to be balloted for industrial action. 

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland will be balloted on industrial action, the BMA has announced.  

Junior doctor representatives met with the Permanent Secretary for Health, Peter May, this evening where they outlined their concerns about pay and the unacceptable workplace pressures junior doctors are under while training and delivering patient care.  

At the meeting they asked the Permanent Secretary for assurances that junior doctors would receive this year’s pay uplift of 6% along with an above inflation award, and that the Department would work with them to achieve full pay restoration for junior doctors. The Permanent Secretary was unable to give them these assurances and therefore the Northern Ireland Junior Doctors Committee (NIJDC) will now move to begin the process of balloting junior doctors in Northern Ireland for strike action.  

Over the summer junior doctors were asked their views on issues affecting the workforce, including their views on pay. Nearly 900 junior doctors working in Northern Ireland outlined in their responses the widespread levels of frustration and anger with pay and workplace conditions, with over 90% of respondents saying they would be willing to take industrial action to achieve better pay. 

NIJDC committee chair, Dr Fiona Griffin, said: “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly. We had hoped the Permanent Secretary would agree to commit to immediate action around pay and in doing so begin to address the ongoing pay erosion and poor terms and conditions for junior doctors. Regrettably that was not the case. 

“What we heard from our survey results, alongside the feedback we received from the hundreds of junior doctors who attended our workplace listening sessions earlier in the year, meant the decision to proceed towards a ballot was clear-cut for the committee.  

“There has been significant pay erosion for junior doctors over the past decade so now not only are we the only UK nation to not have received the DDRB-recommended pay uplift of 6%, but a junior doctor working here can also expect to be paid less than our colleagues working elsewhere in the UK and in other countries.” 

Dr Griffin outlined how chronic rota gaps, consistently rising workload pressures and the subsequent impact on training opportunities needed for career progression has caused unprecedented levels of burnout and low morale among junior doctors working in the Northern Ireland health service. 

“The combination of these issues, and the fact our contract no longer reflects the current reality of training in Northern Ireland, means many junior doctors are opting out of training, leaving the profession, or choosing to practice outside of Northern Ireland where pay, conditions and life/work balance is much more attractive. 

“The lack of a functioning government and Executive, with no health minister in place is extremely frustrating but we have to do something. Our members made it clear to us that doing nothing was not an option.”  

Other key findings from the NIJDC survey include: 

  • 72% of junior doctor respondents said they were now more likely to leave training because of the low pay, with 61% of respondents disagreeing that they were paid fairly for the work that they do. 
  • 68% of respondents strongly agreed that workload pressures affect the ability to receive on the job training needed for career progression. 35% of respondents reported frequently having to miss training sessions in the past six months, while only 5% of respondents strongly agreed that the quality of training was good. 

Survey respondents were also given an opportunity to share their thoughts on their pay and workplace conditions. Below is a small selection of the feedback received: 

“What should be a rewarding career into a constant stress. Morale in hospitals is at an all-time low and staff of all grades feel undervalued by management and the government.” 

“I am so frustrated at how broken our system is. I’m an F2 currently and I, alongside my colleagues, are overworked, overstressed, understaffed and underpaid and the government does not care. Critically, this means worse care for patients, and having been in medicine, surgery and emergency medicine, I can without doubt say the care of patients is currently abysmal.” 

Dr Griffin continued: “We are willing to engage with anyone – the Permanent Secretary, the Secretary of State, our elected representatives – to fix pay and our working conditions. The future of our profession and our health service depends on these issues being addressed as a matter of urgency.” 




Notes to editors

Notes for Editors: 

  • The NIJDC survey took place over the course of four weeks in July and August 2023 and was open to both members and non-members of BMA employed as trainee doctors in the Northern Ireland health service. The survey received 899 respondents.  
  • Junior doctor pay levels in Northern Ireland compared to the other UK nations: 
















SpR (Specialty Registrar) 





For more background on Northern Ireland junior doctor pay scales and pay erosion, visit here.  

  • To find out more about why fixing pay and workplace conditions for junior doctors is essential to the survival of our health service in Northern Ireland, click here
  • To find out more about the stages of industrial action elsewhere in the UK, click here
  • According to the Department of Health’s quarterly workforce census, as of June 2023 there are 1,976 whole time equivalent staff employed by NIMDTA (Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency). Of the 1,976 WTE staff employed, 83.4% (1,648 WTE) were working in one of the five regional HSC Trusts as ‘Doctors in Training’, also referred to as ‘junior doctors’. The remaining 16.6% (328 WTE) included ‘Doctors in Training’ working in other HSC organisations. 
  • Doctors in training are doctors who have completed their medical degree and are registered to practice with the General Medical Council but have yet to fully complete their training to become a Specialty Doctor (SAS), a GP or a Consultant.   



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