BMA Cymru Wales is set to ballot secondary care doctors on industrial action after negotiations over pay with the Welsh Government broke down last month.
The decision to enter a formal dispute including seeking a ballot for strike action comes after the BMA rejected the Welsh Government’s latest below-inflation pay offer for consultants, junior doctors and SAS doctors of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%.
This is the lowest pay offer any government in the UK has offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended earlier this year.
This forms part of the doctors union’s UK strategy for pay restoration* – a move to restore the profession’s pay which has been cut by nearly a third (29%) in real terms since 2009.
Talks between the BMA and the Welsh Government broke down after Welsh Government failed to provide a credible offer to address years of pay erosion despite the Welsh Government’s public declaration to work together to commit to the principle of pay restoration** in April 2023 which has left doctors feeling even more undervalued.
BMA Cymru Wales Chair Dr Iona Collins said:
“Despite multiple attempts to warn the Welsh Government about the devastating impact of persistent cuts to pay against the backdrop of some of the worst working conditions in the UK, the best that Welsh Government can offer is further pay erosion.
“Today, we had 100% backing from the committees representing SAS, consultants and junior doctors to proceed with balloting for industrial action. Reflecting the strength of feeling amongst the profession.
“If we accept an offer of 5%, we accept that more doctors than ever will leave NHS Wales due to uncompetitive pay.
“We are now consulting members on our next steps which includes a ballot for industrial action for all secondary care doctors, we already know from a recent survey that 89% of junior doctors said they would be prepared to take industrial action to get a fairer deal.
The BMA’s Welsh committees warned that some of its members, junior doctors particularly, were working for basic pay of £13 per hour whilst saddled with massive university debts, and that some were struggling to pay for rent, heating and even food.
Newly elected Welsh junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey said:
“After a decade’s worth of real terms pay cuts, chronic staff shortages and persistent underfunding, enough is enough. With Welsh Government confirming that 5% is their final offer, we are left with no alternative.
“We stand at a pivotal crossroads where inaction is no longer an option. If we fail to stand up for ourselves, the opportunity to save our profession may slip through our grasp forever. We urge junior doctors in Wales to mobilise, join our pay restoration campaign and prepare for industrial action to fight for a better future.”
The Welsh consultants committee chair Dr Stephen Kelly added:
“The latest offer from the Welsh Government is hugely concerning, we now have a situation where senior doctors are looking to retire early, reduce their hours or move out of the country and all the while patients get sicker and outcomes get worse.
“Our members regularly tell us about significant gaps in the workforce. Investing in staff retention should be the Welsh Government’s number one priority when looking to improve NHS services and so this latest offer is of grave concern to us.
Welsh SAS committee chair Dr Ali Nazir said:
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors showed huge personal sacrifice in Wales with some paying the ultimate price. We have always gone above and beyond the call of duty and continue to do so.
“This offer has exposed the priorities of the Welsh Government where SAS doctors are not considered important at all.
“We as a group have been subjected to discrimination and harassment at work.
The offer and its contents is another example of contempt for our services.
“We are demoralised and burnt out. The decision is upsetting for us because we want to serve our patients who are our top priority, but the attitude of the Welsh Government has forced us to take this step”
The three BMA committees*** have voted to ballot members on industrial action in the coming weeks, subject to the approval of the BMA’s UK council. The ballots would include all consultant and SAS doctor members working in the
Welsh NHS, and all junior doctor members working in Wales, including GP trainees.
If members vote in favour, then it would be the first national strike over pay by doctors in Wales.
GP contract negotiations are distinct, and GPC Wales will enter negotiations in September. Earlier this year we highlighted the significant pressures facing general practice in the Save Our Surgeries campaign, calling for Welsh
Government action on workforce, investment, and staff wellbeing.
Notes to editors
- *Welsh Junior doctor committee joins strive for full pay restoration
- ** https://www.gov.wales/sites/default/files/inline-documents/2023-04/finalpackagemeasureseng.pdf
- *** The three committees who are consulting members on a ballot for industrial action represent consultants, junior doctors and SAS doctors in Wales
- BMA Cymru Wales GP Committee are set to negotiate their contract with the Welsh Government in September and this will include pay
- The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
What is a Consultant?
Consultants are senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine and are listed on the GMC’s specialist register. They have clinical responsibilities and administrative responsibilities in managing SAS and junior doctors.
They usually work in hospitals or community settings.
What is a junior doctor?
Junior doctors are qualified doctors in clinical training.
They have completed a medical degree and can have up to nine years of working experience as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to five years of working and gaining experience to become a general practitioner (GP).
What is a SAS doctor?
SAS doctors (specialist, associate specialists and specialty doctors) are experienced and senior doctors in permanent posts.
There are SAS doctors in every hospital specialty and also in community hospitals (eg psychiatry and paediatrics). Some hold jobs in both the hospital and the community
More information on doctors’ job titles can be found here https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/international-doctors/life-and-work-in-the-uk/toolkit-for-doctors-new-to-the-uk/doctors-titles-explained