Northern Ireland

Junior doctors begin two-day walkout over pay

The BMA said junior doctors have been left with ‘no choice’.

Junior doctors strike at the Royal Victoria Hospital.PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland have begun a walkout over pay.

The full 48-hour full stoppage – from 7am on Wednesday to 7am on Friday – will see doctors withdraw their labour from hospitals and GP surgeries across Northern Ireland in search of an improved pay deal.

Their union, BMA Northern Ireland, has called for a commitment to full pay restoration to 2008 levels, claiming that junior doctors have seen their salaries effectively eroded by 30% over the last 15 years due to a failure to make pay awards in line with inflation.

It says newly qualified medics in Northern Ireland see colleagues working elsewhere in the UK and in other jurisdictions getting better pay and conditions for less pressured workloads, and warned doctors are leaving the health service in increasing numbers.

Junior doctors strike at the Royal Victoria Hospital.PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Dr Fiona Griffin, chairwoman of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said the workers had been left with “no choice” but to escalate action.

“We did not want to have to escalate industrial action, but our key ask around pay, including a commitment to work towards full pay restoration, was rejected by the Health Minister.

“The health service cannot function without junior doctors. Yet more and more of us are leaving or contemplating leaving the health service to work elsewhere for better pay and working conditions, and where the complex and skilled work we undertake is properly rewarded.

“These are doctors with up to 15 years experience and the fact that this is being allowed to happen amidst a waiting list crisis that is the worst in the UK is unfathomable and unforgiveable.

“We must make a stand now on behalf of the workforce and our patients, before it is too late.”

Dr Griffin called on the Health Minister to “meaningfully address” junior doctors’ pay requests.

She said this strike and further action in June “do not need to happen” and will be called off if a credible offer is put forward.

Health Minister Robin Swann has insisted his department has “done all it can” around pay for junior doctors.

On Tuesday, he told MLAs he had met junior doctors committee that morning.

He said: “I met with the junior doctors this morning and made that very clear in regards to the challenges where they are coming forward for additional pay asks, that I don’t have the financial capability to currently do that.”