Scottish junior doctors reject pay offer and call strike dates

Press release from BMA Scotland

Location: Scotland
Published: Tuesday 13 June 2023
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Scottish junior doctors have voted conclusively to reject the pay offer made by the Scottish Government.

The leadership of BMA Scotland’s junior doctor committee today confirmed three days of strike action will take place on July 12th– 15th unless an improved offer that the BMA believes could credibly be put to members is put forward by Scottish Government.

The results of the consultative vote saw 71.1% vote to reject the offer. The turnout was 66.3%.

Given the strength of feeling of the membership Dr Chris Smith, Chair of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctor Committee, said it was right to set out the dates for a full withdrawal of labour, although the BMA believes action can still be avoided if the Scottish Government comes back to any fresh negotiations with a better offer that convincingly starts to reverse the 15 years of pay erosion Junior Doctors in Scotland have endured.

In May, the Scottish Government offered Junior doctors an aggregate 14.5% uplift over two years, plus talks on a change to the system of pay reviews in future. BMA Scotland put the offer to members with no recommendation in order to amplify the voice of the grassroots and demonstrate to the Scottish Government how serious doctors are about securing the future of their profession.

The BMA is now in the process of seeking an urgent meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Health Michael Matheson – and hope one can be agreed later this week.

The result of the vote comes after up-to-date calculations based on new inflation figures show junior doctor pay has now fallen in real terms by 28.5% for foundation year doctors since 2008. The rejected offer would have reduced that, but only to 26.5% and over the two years was expected to remain sub-inflationary.

Reacting to the outcome of the vote, Dr Smith said:

“Our membership has once again spoken decisively and clearly. It is beyond doubt that they do not consider this offer sufficient to begin the process of addressing the pay erosion we have suffered since 2008 – when pay for a junior doctor was some 28.5% higher.

“That is why today, we can confirm that we are now forced to act on the incredibly strong mandate given to us by members in our preceding strike ballot and announce a full withdrawal of labour for three days from Wednesday July 12th. We are taking these steps reluctantly and indeed this start date is a longer pause than the two weeks statutory notice required in law for two reasons.

“Firstly, we want to ensure NHS boards and the Scottish Government have enough time to put appropriate plans in place for what we accept will be a major disruption to health services. Secondly, this should provide ample opportunity for the Scottish Government to urgently reflect on the verdict of junior doctors, re-engage with us, and come back with an improved package that reverses rather than entrenches pay erosion in the short-term. The package must also convincingly provide a way to safeguard doctors from further pay erosion in the future. It needs to be sufficiently improved that we could again consult our members. I hope to meet Michael Matheson urgently to explore how we take that process forward.

“This should demonstrate that all junior doctors in Scotland are asking for is a viable path to righting the historical wrong of pay erosion to keep the doctors we need for the future in our health service, for the good of the NHS and patients. Today’s result shows that this offer does not do enough to start that journey.

“Under that offer, pay erosion would still have been a staggering 26.5% over the last 15 years when our jobs have become more challenging, more complex and are being done in an NHS which is under greater pressure than ever. Surely no-one truly believes that a junior doctor today is worth so much less than they were in 2008?

“To show that they recognise this and the importance of investing in the medical workforce, the Scottish Government must take the steps needed to secure, retain, and appropriately value Scotland’s junior doctors. We cannot go on losing doctors to countries where they feel more valued and are paid fairly. Our NHS simply won’t be here for the people of Scotland in the long term if there is not action and investment now.

“That is why our message to the Scottish Government today is stark. Come back with an improved offer and we can still avert the need for strikes and the disruption they will cause us all and patients in particular. The ball is now firmly back in the Government’s court, and I hope they respond urgently and positively.”

Notes to editors

In total 3,250 votes were cast in the vote on the pay offer. 2,311 (71.1%) voted to reject the offer, 939 (29.1%) voted to accept.

The strike dates set out would see action start at 0700 Wednesday 12th July to 0659 Saturday 15th July – covering three full days.

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