Junior doctors in Wales announce dates of industrial action ballot

by Ben Ireland

Six-week vote to begin on 6 November with 72-hour walkout planned

Location: Wales
Published: Friday 6 October 2023

Junior doctors in Wales are to be balloted for industrial action from next month.

The six-week ballot by BMA Cymru Wales will run from 6 November to 18 December.

If members vote in favour of industrial action, it will lead to a 72-hour full walkout by participating doctors.

Junior doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of 29.6 per cent in real terms over the last 15 years.

This year, they received another sub-inflationary pay offer from the Welsh Government. The 5 per cent offer is below the recommended amount made by the DDRB, and lower than that rejected by junior doctors in England.

BMA Cymru Wales said the health service is under ‘extraordinary and unprecedented pressure’ and is ‘deeply concerned that ongoing pay erosion will continue to drive doctors out of the profession at a time when the NHS can least stand to lose them’.

This, it adds, could lead to ‘a vicious cycle of crippling staffing shortages and worse patient care’.

A recent BMA survey found that 89 per cent of responding junior doctors in Wales would be prepared to take industrial action if doctors’ pay continued to be eroded in Wales.

Co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh junior doctors committee, Oba Babs-Osibodu and Peter Fahey, said: ‘The Welsh Government’s failure to value junior doctors and reverse years of pay erosion has forced us to enter a trade dispute.

‘Junior doctors are embarking upon their careers shouldering significant student debts and facing increasing financial pressures.

‘It is hardly surprising that the latest sub-inflationary offer from Welsh Government has made junior doctors feel angry, unvalued, and unwilling to continue with the current trajectory.

 ‘A junior doctor is not worth up to a third less today than they were in 2008, and yet this is the amount of pay erosion that we are facing. The continued erosion of our pay coupled with the extraordinary pressures now facing the NHS has resulted in a perfect storm.

‘Many of our colleagues are questioning whether to remain in the NHS, looking further afield for opportunities where their expertise and dedication are properly valued.

‘This is not a decision we have made lightly. No doctor wants to take industrial action, but we have been given no choice. Doctors are already voting with their feet and leaving the NHS.’

Consultants and SAS doctors in Wales are also to be balloted over industrial action after rejecting the Welsh Government’s 5 per cent pay offer. Dates of their ballots are yet to be confirmed.

Junior doctors and consultants in England continued their industrial action this week as they seek progress towards pay restoration. Consultants in England were offered a 6 per cent pay uplift, while junior doctors in England were offered 6 per cent plus a lump sum of £1,250.

In Northern Ireland, junior doctors and consultants are preparing to ballot, although a date for the ballot has not yet been set.

Junior doctors in Scotland accepted a 17.5 per cent pay uplift over two years, which included a ‘key’ commitment from the Scottish Government to work towards full pay restoration in the future.

BMA Scotland, however, continues to warn that the devolved government must take ‘real action’ to stem low consultant morale after consultants in Scotland were handed the same 6 per cent offer as colleagues in England, and have not ruled out balloting for industrial action.