Junior doctors guide to strike action in Northern Ireland

Striking as a GP registrar

Location: Northern Ireland
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Monday 19 February 2024

If you are a GP registrar in HSC NI, you are a junior doctor included in the pay dispute and are encouraged to take part in the ballot and if successful any subsequent strike action.

You can take industrial action if you have a contract with an HSC employer.

A full walkout means you should not see patients on strike days or perform administrative work (e.g., reviewing blood tests and other non-patient facing clinical tasks). Our advice is to refrain from attending your practice on strike days.

Junior doctors, including GP registrars, undertaking industrial action are only able to join picket lines at their usual place of work. For GP registrars working in a practice setting, this would mean picketing outside their practice.

However, this fight is not against GP practices. Therefore, we are encouraging GP registrars taking part in IA to join protests at their nearby hospitals, as we expect the majority of junior doctors on the selected days to demonstrate there.

Further information on these demonstrations will be made available by BMA staff, and we encourage any GP registrars to contact them should they wish to join a demonstration.

Managing the impact of strike action on practice work

We strongly advise that practices cancel any clinics scheduled for GP registrars on those days in advance of the strike action. We recommend not scheduling GP registrars to be duty doctors, on-call, triage, or equivalent on the days planned for strike action.

We know some patients are booked into clinics in advance, and we are also aware that some important results ordered by GP registrars may come into the practice on strike days. We suggest having an early conversation with your practice to identify any patients who may need to reschedule their appointments or require urgent action on the days of industrial action.

Rotas for GP registrars

There should be no changes to or cancellations of the educational element of your rota during any industrial action. This position is supported by NIGPC, which advises practices not to change the educational component of GP registrars' rotas on days of planned action.

Specifically, SDL (self-directed learning) time, educational supervisor sessions, and HDR (half-day release) teaching should not be rescheduled to a time when industrial action is to occur. Conversely, these activities should not be replaced with normal clinical time during periods of industrial action.

The impact of strike action on GP registrars' education

Following industrial action, clinical and educational supervisors will likely discuss its impact on your education. If there are any negative impacts, we suggest that trainers take a pragmatic approach to provide further educational opportunities at other points during the rotation.

Regional and locality days

GP registrars will have regular teaching sessions as part of their typical working week. These teaching sessions usually take place on a Thursday and means that they will not be in practice that day.

GP registrars can legally take industrial action by not attending these teaching sessions if it falls during periods of strike action. However, you may not be able to reclaim the study leave days lost from taking industrial action that coincides with this teaching session. 

However, attending these Thursday teaching sessions on days of industrial action is a matter of individual choice for GP registrars as it does not undermine the strike's impact. 

Reflecting on your experience in your portfolio

It may be beneficial to reflect on your experiences of industrial action in your portfolio and how this action affects the healthcare system and the future of the GP workforce. This may be utilised to mitigate any potential impacts to your ARCP due to undertaking industrial action. Please note that you are not required to reflect on this as part of your portfolio.

Taking part in strike action as a GP ST3

For GP registrars who are ST3+, you might question the personal benefit of participating in any industrial action when you are due to finish training soon, and you might not see the direct benefit of any pay increase. In addition, as you are about to exit training, you might be concerned about the impact of undertaking industrial action on your relationship with your GP colleagues and future career options.

If junior doctors succeed in this action, it will improve our ability to secure improvements for other areas of the health profession. This includes improvements in the working conditions within general practice. Amendments to doctors' pay are usually backdated to April of that year, so depending on your date of CCT, you may see the benefits of an increase in income for GP registrars. The BMA cannot guarantee this will happen.