Scottish Junior Doctors will stage 72-hour full withdrawal of labour if members vote to strike

The strike ballot for junior doctors in Scotland is set to take place from 29 March to 5 May.

Published: Friday 24 March 2023
Picket Line High Viz

BMA Scotland today confirmed junior doctors in Scotland will take action comprising a 72-hour full walkout should its ballot opening next week (March 29th) see members support strike action.

Dates for the three-day action would be confirmed in the days following closure of the ballot on 5th May, if there is a vote in favour of striking. The BMA are announcing the form of action junior doctors plan to take – which is in line with recent strikes in England - to allow Scottish Government and NHS Boards to begin planning for delivering care in those circumstances.

Announcing the plans, BMA Scotland Junior Doctor Committee Chair Chris Smith emphasised that it “was still within the Scottish Government’s power” to prevent the need for any type of strike action should it enter into meaningful negotiations on reversing ongoing pay erosion and restoring junior doctor pay to 2008 levels, after it has been cut by 23.5% over the last 15 years.

Dr Smith said:

“As junior doctors we see every day the damaging impact our crumbling Scottish NHS has on patients and staff. The seriousness of the situation – caused not least by short staffing – should be crystal clear to anyone with even a passing interest in our NHS. Equally, the demoralisation of the junior doctor workforce and devaluation of the work we do through many years of pay erosion is hard to overstate. We make up 44% of the doctors in the NHS in Scotland, and we are on our knees. Indeed, many are considering leaving, or have already left – driven abroad or out of medicine altogether by being overworked yet underpaid.

“This simply can’t go on. We need urgent investment in our junior doctor workforce - who are the senior doctors of the future - and to finally value them properly again. That means restoring junior doctor pay to 2008 levels in order to retain the staff we so desperately need both now and long term. We want to work with the Scottish Government to secure this investment, right this historical wrong and start to heal our broken NHS. Yet despite the obvious advantages of that, the Cabinet Secretary for Health – who continues to talk up the fact that there have been no strikes in NHS Scotland whilst being fully aware of our plans – has singularly failed to even commit to start the meaningful negotiations that we believe with goodwill on all sides can lead to a solution.

“That’s why we are moving to ballot junior doctors on strike action in Scotland next week. And it is why today we can confirm that should our members vote in favour of striking, we will begin with a full withdrawal of our labour for 72 hours. We understand the seriousness of this. But the situation we find ourselves in is equally serious. The very future of our NHS – and the people who work in it – is at stake. We hope the Scottish Government does finally wake up and see that we are being forced to act with no other choice. And it is still within the power of Ministers to prevent the need for any type of strike action.

“By making this announcement today, we are giving the Scottish Government the chance both to understand how serious we are, and to act to prevent things reaching that stage – or if not, at least make sure it and NHS boards have time to plan effectively for the implications of the action, which we understand and accept will be wide ranging and disruptive. We will not take this action lightly. Indeed, if we are forced to withdraw our labour, it will be with huge regret – and it should be absolutely clear that the fault lies with those who aren’t even prepared to engage meaningfully on our asks.”



Subject to a successful ballot, junior doctors in Scotland will begin their action with a 72 hour full walk out on weekdays. Junior doctors will not provide emergency care during the strike. Should junior doctors be forced to take this action, NHS Boards will need to arrange emergency cover to ensure patient safety. We will be giving boards and the Scottish Government enough notice to prepare for this. This is to ensure that patients whose appointments are cancelled know well in advance and to ensure that employers can manage their medical rotas appropriately to ensure emergency care is no different to any other day.

Tim Jays
Head of Public affairs and Strategic Comms, BMA Scotland

(0131) 2473018/07768 005850