THE chairman of the BMA in Northern Ireland has backed junior doctors in England as they being a 72-hour strike action.
Tens of thousands of junior doctors have joined the three day walkout in a dispute over pay, which will see operations and appointments cancelled for thousands of patients.
The BMA has called for a substantial pay rise as junior doctor pay has fallen in real terms by 26 per cent since 2008/09.
Dr Tom Black, who chairs the BMA's Northern Ireland council, said: “Doctors across Northern Ireland offer our support and solidarity to junior doctors in England. No decision to strike is ever taken lightly. Such an overwhelming majority vote in favour of taking this action shows they felt they had no other option."
He said the situation would be monitored closely in Northern Ireland to inform any decision to ballot for industrial action.
"Make no mistake that all doctors and frontline healthcare workers here face the very same dangerous and mounting pressures as our colleagues in the rest of the UK," he said.
"We also have the added and prolonged uncertainty of having no functioning Executive to deliver the change needed to support us and our patients.
“The level of dissatisfaction, low morale and burnout among doctors is as high as it has ever been. This is compounded by successive low pay awards combined with delays in receiving these awards. It also drives young doctors out of the health service to other countries and our more experienced doctors to retire early at a time when we need to recruit and retain them.”
On Friday, the Health Secretary Steve Barclay had invited the BMA to talks but the union refused over "unacceptable" preconditions after "radio silence" from the government for months.
Junior doctors currently make up around 45 per cent of the NHS's medical workforce, with consultants and other medics drafted in during the strikes to cover other areas like A&E.
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, told Times Radio the health service will see “extensive disruption” over the next three days.
“This is likely to be the most disruptive set of industrial action days that we’ve seen all winter," he said.
“Why is that? Well, it’s three days rather than just one day, it involves junior doctors that are a large part of the medical workforce and, of course, work in many healthcare settings, not just hospitals – general practice, mental health trusts and, of course, community settings too – and so it’s likely that we will see that extensive disruption.
We’ve been focusing on ensuring that emergency care, A&E departments, critical care, maternity services are maintained, but that’s going to come, unfortunately, at the expense of other services, such as routine appointments and some surgery.”