Third group of hospital doctors to be balloted for industrial action in Northern Ireland

by BMA NI media team

Press release from BMA Northern Ireland

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Wednesday 8 May 2024
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Specialist, staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors (SAS)* in Northern Ireland are to be balloted for industrial action over pay, the BMA has announced.

The decision to move to a formal dispute and ballot members was taken following an indicative ballot** where 86.5% of SAS doctors who responded said they were willing to take industrial action over their pay.

Dr Leanne Davison, Northern Ireland SAS committee chair, said: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly but we cannot go on as we are. SAS doctors play a key role in the health service. We make up 12% of the medical and dental workforce ***, provide specialist patient care and can be found in senior clinical roles throughout the health service. However, our workplace and workload pressures have grown significantly over the past decade, yet our pay – which has dropped by nearly a third in real-terms since 2008 - no longer reflects that. This is causing a workforce crisis, which is why we are calling for full pay restoration back to 2008 levels.

"With the return of devolution earlier this year, we were cautiously optimistic that the newly appointed Health Minister would act to address pay issues, but this has not happened. Currently the pay award for 2023-2024 has not yet been paid.

"All of this is simply unacceptable and only further adds to the sense that the role doctors play in the health service is simply not valued. This is a feeling shared by our consultant and junior colleagues who are already in industrial dispute over their own pay levels.

"It has left the committee with no choice but to proceed towards a formal full ballot for industrial action to ensure there is some movement towards meaningful negotiations for full pay restoration back to 2008 levels."

Dr Davison said the health minister needs to "take immediate steps to reverse this decline in SAS doctors pay at the earliest opportunity".

"This must begin with a pay uplift for 24/25 that makes meaningful progress towards full pay restoration and a commitment to continue to work towards this goal," she said.

"It is essential to protect the future of our profession. Otherwise, we will continue to struggle to retain the SAS workforce that we have in Northern Ireland or attract SAS doctors to work here."

Notes to editors

* Staff, Associate Specialist and Specialty Doctors (SAS) doctors are a branch of practice who choose to not to complete the medical training pathway towards a consultant or general practitioner role. They are employed in variety of specialties within hospital medicine and can hold senior clinical roles throughout the health service.

** 43% of SAS BMA members responded to the indicative ballot, with 86.5% of those respondents stating they are willing to take industrial action.


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