Northern Ireland

Health trust undertaking ‘detailed planning’ ahead of next week’s junior doctor strikes

The 48-hour walkout will take place from 7am on Wednesday, with disruption expected for planned operations, outpatient clinics and non-emergency surgery

Junior doctors on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital on March 6, taking part in their first ever industrial action over pay. After pay negotiations broke down, 48-hour walkouts are now planned in May and June. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

HEALTH trusts in Northern Ireland are preparing for further disruption ahead of two days of strike action from junior doctors next week.

The 48-hour walkout takes place from 7am on Wednesday May 22, with another taking place from 7am on June 6.

Most health trusts said they did not yet have full details of what services would be disrupted, but would be updating the public early next week.

A spokesperson for the Southern Trust commented: “The trust is currently undertaking detailed contingency planning following the announcement of industrial action and will keep the public informed as soon as we know what the likely impact is on our services.”

The British Medical Association has said that the same process for derogations was in place following the last day of strike action by junior doctors on March 6.

Trusts have been informed about they can request derogations or recall staff, but there will be no specific derogations agreed in advance.

In March, the Department of Health said the first day of strike action would cause “substantial disruption,” with most scheduled activity like planned operations and outpatient clinics not taking place on order to free up senior medical staff.

Surgical waiting lists were also largely confined to emergency surgery.

Earlier this month, the Health Minister Robin Swann warned again of a “very significant impact on health service delivery”.

Junior doctors in the BMA are calling for a full pay restoration to 2008 levels, claiming junior doctors have had their salaries effectively eroded by 30% since 2008.

Mr Swann has stated he is committed to pay negotiations with junior doctors, but was limited by a budget he claims is £300m less than is needed to maintain services at their current level.

Appearing before Stormont’s health committee, the BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee chair, Dr Fiona Griffin, said pay negotiations broke down after Mr Swann said “no” to working towards a full pay restoration.

“When someone says no it’s not longer a negotiation, that is the end of the discussion.

“That no came before the announcement of the budget…we’ve heard nothing since. I know the minister has said his door is open for negotiation but when a party says no, to us that’s not a negotiation.”

Meanwhile, the BMA is currently balloting consultants in Northern Ireland over pay as well as announcing a ballot of specialist doctors.

Last week, social workers in the Belfast Health Trust area also staged three days of strike action over serious staffing shortages, with those in other health trusts to follow in the coming weeks.