Junior doctors in Northern Ireland vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike action

by BMA NI Press office

Pres release from BMA NI

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Monday 19 February 2024
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Junior doctors in Northern Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action in their fight to restore 16 years of pay erosion. 

97.6% of those balloted voted yes to a full 24-hour walkout that will take place in hospitals across Northern Ireland from 8am on 6 March 2024 to 8am on 7 March 2024. 

Dr Fiona Griffin, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said the yes vote is “a clear indication of the strength of feeling among junior doctors about years of pay erosion”. 

“It is clear from this result that junior doctors feel they have no other option but to strike. We owe it to ourselves, our patients and the future of the health service to act,” said Dr Griffin. 

“We have had 16 years of pay erosion which now amounts to over 30% loss of pay, yet in this time our workload and burnout levels have risen. Coupled with rising inflation this is a huge financial loss for anyone in any profession, but it is causing an acute workforce crisis among junior doctors as many are thinking about leaving Northern Ireland to work elsewhere for better pay and working conditions, where the complex and skilled work we undertake is properly rewarded. These are the consultants, GPs and specialty doctors of the future, medics that we are relying on to drive down our waiting lists.” 

Dr Griffin added that a recent pay meeting between Department of Health officials, herself and the chairs of BMA Northern Ireland’s consultants and SAS* committees left them feeling “extremely disappointed and disheartened”.  

“We entered that meeting with the hope that good faith negotiations would commence on doctor’s pay asks. Instead we were presented with a fait accompli of a below inflation 6% uplift, that will be awarded in the next financial year. We were told any further discussions on pay had to be delayed until the ongoing Westminster pay negotiations with doctors in England had concluded, despite health and pay being devolved matters.  

“All of this is simply unacceptable and is far from the spirit of meaningful engagement on pay. It further adds to the sense that the role doctors play in the health service is simply not valued.” 

Dr Griffin called on the Health Minister and the Executive to fight for proper investment in the health service’s key asset – its staff.  

“Junior doctors must be paid fairly for the work that we do and that means nothing less than an immediate, above inflation pay award and a commitment to full pay restoration to 2008 levels,” she said. 

“The future of our profession and our health service depends on this issue being addressed urgently and we are willing to get around the negotiating table at any time to achieve this. I also call on all political representatives to show their support and join us on the picket lines on 06 March.” 

Notes to editors

  • There was a 63.7% turnout for the ballot. 
  • Junior doctors working in Northern Ireland range from being newly qualified doctors earning less than £13 per-hour basic pay to experienced surgeons earning £30 per-hour basic pay. For more information on the junior doctors pay campaign and how their pay has eroded since 2008, visit www.bma.org.uk/juniorspayni 
  • *Specialist, staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors.