It might feel like our devolved government is on life support, but there are still some signs of life there and for that reason lobbying the political parties is a key part of our pay strategy.
This week I, along with committee chair Fiona Griffin and co-deputy chair Edwina Hegarty, held a roundtable meeting with the health spokespeople from most of the main political parties: Linda Dillon from Sinn Fein, Colin McGrath from the SDLP, Paula Bradshaw MLA from the Alliance Party, and a party representative from the UUP. The DUP were not able to attend but a meeting has been set up with their health spokesperson in early October.
At the meeting we took it in turn to outline the dire state of workplace conditions, training, rotas and pay for junior doctors working in Northern Ireland.
All of the MLAs were quite shocked to hear the feedback received from our recent survey of junior doctors, how the culmination of years of pay erosion, decreasing quality of training, an outdated contract and woefully inadequate facilities has created such widespread levels of low morale and burnout.
We made it clear that juniors are now at a tipping point and ready to act unless something is done as a matter of urgency, by those with the power to address these issues. We told them that Northern Ireland is no longer an attractive place to train and work as a junior doctor, there are better and higher levels of pay, training quality and work/life balance elsewhere in the UK and other countries and this is making many of us seriously consider leaving.
At the end of the meeting we made clear what action political parties can take now even in the absence of devolution to help support junior doctors, including:
- Paying the DDRB uplift of 6% in a timely manner
- Getting health trusts to fully implement BMA fatigue and facilities charter to enhance safe working conditions for juniors
- Put pressure on the Department of Health to act on the promised review of the Single lead employer to ensure it is properly resourced
- Support us in asking for a reformed junior doctor contract that addresses pay, workplace protections, working hours, facilities and recognition and access to training
- For them to publicly support us in stating their commitment to full pay restoration for Junior doctors, as has happened in Scotland and Wales.
The BMA Northern Ireland junior doctors committee will be meeting in the coming days to discuss the full survey findings and agreeing the next course of action on behalf of junior doctors. We will update members as soon as possible on what these next steps will be.
Whatever is decided, it is of the utmost importance that all members ensure that BMA has the most up-to-date contact and place of work details for you so we can keep in touch and ensure your voice is heard in any future action. Update them here
If you are not a member of BMA, now is the time to join as we are stronger together. Join here
Junior doctors in Northern Ireland feel undervalued, underpaid, overworked, and lacking in training opportunities. Learn more about what we are doing to address this.
Steven Montgomery is co-deputy chair of the BMA Northern Ireland junior doctors committee