I am honoured to be appointed chair of WMSC for the 2023/24 session, and I hope to keep you updated and involved in the crucial work the BMA is doing to win us better conditions in work.
Welsh junior doctors will be be balloted for industrial action from 6 November until 18 December. The decision to ballot members followed the WMSC's rejection of a 5% pay offer, the lowest in the UK, earlier this year.
This marks an important chapter in our story as students about to enter the profession, as we will be affected most by the outcome of these events. The BMA in Scotland won a significant pay uplift, the 12.4% increase now means junior doctors starting their career will receive £3,000 more in their annual salary.
In Wales we are about to embark on a similar journey. The 12.4% won in Scotland is less than asked for, but represents a significant step towards pay restoration. Medical students played a key role in the Scottish pay campaign, and there is an important role for medical students in Wales too.
We are planning to run engagement events for students where you can get your own materials, lanyards and badges to show your support, update your membership, ask questions and find out how to get involved. We’ll make sure these events are visible and accessible for as many students as possible.
We will continue to work on improving student finance provision. Making it easier for students to be able to focus on their studies without worrying about how they will meet their living costs remains our top priority for this session.
Thanks to the committee's hard work last session, we were encouraged to see the Welsh Government recently announce that it will ensure Welsh-domiciled students can now receive the full maintenance loan rather than a reduced rate.
While this may seem like a modest adjustment, we know it will help to alleviate some of the financial pressures affecting students. This work is particularly important to us as our latest survey on student finance showed that more than 90% of participants rely on tuition fees and maintenance loans to be able to support their studies.
Additionally, our work to ensure more support is given to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will also be a high priority, and we look forward to working with policy makers to make further changes to help to lighten the financial burden for students going forward.
Other areas of focus
As BMA representatives, we will continue to monitor the impact of growing student numbers in our medical schools and raise any concerns locally. For example, one student told us that, at their university, students were unable to get into the lecture hall due to limited capacity. This is not good enough, and we will continue to raise such concerns during our regular meetings with the deans and senior staff at our medical schools.
We’re also aware of the hardships faced by final-year students who last year were unable to graduate owing to ongoing industrial action by the union representing university lecturers. And while we would support other professions in their own fights against pay erosion, we will also continue to monitor this situation and seek mitigation from the university authorities against the impact of this ongoing dispute.
As a committee, we’re looking forward to working with students to improve conditions locally and nationally. Please don’t hesitate to contact the committee or your local BMA representatives with any concerns.
Serge John is BMA Welsh medical students committee chair and a final-year student at Swansea Medical School