The industrial action ballot of junior doctors working in Northern Ireland will take place from 8 January 2024 to 19 February 2024.
NIJDC chair Fiona Griffin said: “Over the summer junior doctors were asked their views on issues affecting the workforce, including their views on pay. Nearly 900 junior doctors working in Northern Ireland outlined in their responses the widespread levels of frustration and anger with pay and workplace conditions, with over 90% of respondents saying they would be willing to take industrial action to achieve better pay.”
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What we're asking for
We are asking the Department of Health, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and our Assembly to do the following:
- An immediate substantial pay rise for junior doctors in Northern Ireland to stem the workforce crisis.
- Full pay restoration for junior doctors in Northern Ireland to 2008 levels.
Read our more on pay erosion to see why we're calling for it.
Trusts to commit to complying with the BMA fatigue and facilities charter, with a focus on urgent introduction of safe working limits to fix rotas.
- Junior doctors in Northern Ireland do not have the same rest protections and rota design requirements as elsewhere in the UK. 49% of trainees in Northern Ireland reported working above their rostered hours – higher than the UK average of 42%.
- Exhausting, understaffed rotas impacts on training time required for career development. Significantly more trainees in Northern Ireland (38%) have reported that rota gaps were not being sufficiently dealt with than in the UK as a whole (29%).
Introduction of a trainee guarantee for access to scheduled training, including study leave for F1s.
- Workload pressures are causing the quality of training to deteriorate significantly, particularly for foundation trainees. Almost half (46%) of trainees in Northern Ireland reported significant increase in workload intensity on dayshifts and on nightshifts (20%).
- Lack of training opportunities impacts trainees’ career progression, creating more staffing gaps in higher grades. 21% of trainees in Northern Ireland reported a lack of protected time for completion of all the mandatory training requirements of their post. This was higher than elsewhere in the UK (17%)
- Training protections will be essential to tackling our waiting list crisis.
Commitment from the Department of Health to entering contract negotiations on a reformed junior doctor contract that improves workplace protections, facilities, working hours and recognition.
- The existing contract does not match the reality of training in 2023.
- A new contract is needed that creates a good working environment conducive to training to incentivise junior doctors to stay in training in Northern Ireland.
Calculating junior doctor pay erosion in Northern Ireland
Our calculations show that our pay has been eroded by 30.7% since 2008 when compared with RPI inflation. This is a huge loss to our pay and our living standards that fails to reflect the responsibility, training, and sacrifices required of our work. It’s causing a workforce crisis as fewer and fewer trainees choose to stay in Northern Ireland to train. To make matters worse, the recent DDRB recommendation of a 6% pay uplift, plus £1,250, will not be awarded in Northern Ireland.
We are not worth 30% less than we were in 2008 and we are not worth less than doctors in other countries. Our basic pay is also the lowest in the UK.
|SpR (specialty registrar)||£35,405||£35,940||£40,995||£43,923|
The effects of pay erosion
Our pay erosion isn’t just affecting us. It also has an effect on the health service in Northern Ireland. Sub-inflationary pay increases have meant it is now less attractive to work and train in Northern Ireland. We are seeing a workforce crisis emerge from our eroded pay because there are better options elsewhere. This retention and recruitment crisis facing the health service is a risk to its future in Northern Ireland.
The 2023/24 GP training programme intake has posts for 121 trainees. NIMDTA has recently confirmed that only 99 trainees have been recruited to commence in August 2023.
With better pay, we will incentivise more doctors who studied in Northern Ireland to stay and doctors outside of Northern Ireland to come and work here. With more doctors, our rotas will be less intense and we will all have more time for training.
Northern Ireland has been without an active Executive or Assembly since February 2022.
In April 2023, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland set a budget in the absence of the Executive. His budget committed to repaying last year’s overspend through the return of any future funding uplifts that result from increases in spending in England, known as the Barnett Consequentials.
Following this, the Department of Health announced that there would be no pay awards at all this year as a result of funding shortfalls.
This situation cannot continue – there must be a pay uplift for all health workers, and it must include a substantial pay rise for junior doctors that begins to address the erosion of our pay.
This puts us in a very different situation to our colleagues in other nations. However, it does not mean that we are doing nothing: the Secretary of State, the Department of Health and politicians all have a role to play in mitigating this crisis as soon as possible.
That’s why we have written to the Secretary of State, and met with the Department of Health, to discuss this issue and demand the reversal of this decision to ensure a pay award is given this year.
Read BMA Northern Ireland Council’s statement on the pay award.
We are also actively lobbying MLAs to ensure that they understand the crisis affecting junior doctors and what needs to be done urgently to fix the health service. We will engage immediately with the new Health Minister and Health Committee as soon as devolved government is restored.
We recently surveyed junior doctors about pay, conditions, training what you’d be willing to do alongside us to make things change.
Throughout March and April we held listening sessions in workplaces across Northern Ireland attended by hundreds of junior doctors. In the survey and at the events the message was clear: we are undervalued, underpaid, overworked, and lack good training opportunities.
The list of problems was sobering, ranging from inappropriate last-minute pressure to cover gaps that were known about for weeks, suppression of locum pay, incorrect bandings, huge delays in provision of rotas, and a real decline in the quality of training in recent years.
In January 2023 we submitted evidence to the DDRB with our core pay ask being full pay restoration for all medical staff, including junior doctors.
We continued to participate in the DDRB process, recognising that despite our significant concerns regarding the DDRB’s independence from government, it represents one of the few avenues to achieve a pay rise for doctors in Northern Ireland in the absence of an Executive. We highlighted the dire state of training in Northern Ireland, the pressures we all face, and the workload that is causing so many colleagues to take time out of training or to move abroad entirely. Read our response to the 2023/24 DDRB pay recommendation.
- Learn more about the work of NIJDC including who your committee rep is.
Help build a team at your workplace that drives our campaign locally.
Share your ideas to help BMA Northern Ireland develop our campaign.
Recruit new BMA members to strengthen our voice calling for full pay restoration.
Join or start local events, meetings and activities in support of the campaign.
Download a range of campaign materials to share on social media and in your communal work and rest areas.