Northern Ireland

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland begin 24-hour strike action

Health Minister Robin Swann has already warned that the disruption will be significant and will lead to thousands of missed appointments.

Junior Doctors strike at RVH Junior doctors on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital as they take part in their first ever industrial action over pay. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

Junior doctors across Northern Ireland are taking part in their first ever industrial action over pay.

A 24-hour walkout began at 8am today, affecting hospitals and GP surgeries.



Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that the disruption caused by the strike action will be significant and will lead to thousands of missed appointments and procedures.

The strike action was called after 97.6% of junior doctors balloted by BMA Northern Ireland voted in favour of industrial action.

The union has called for a commitment to a full pay restoration to 2008 levels.

Junior Doctors strike at RVH Junior doctors on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital as they take part in their first ever industrial action over pay. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

Dr Fiona Griffin, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said: “No doctor wants to strike, but we feel we have been left with no choice but to stand up for ourselves.

“We are no longer going to put up with unacceptable pay and conditions; they are causing an acute workforce crisis that is not being taken seriously.

“Junior doctors working in Northern Ireland range from being newly qualified doctors earning less than £13 per-hour to experienced surgeons, oncologists and cardiologists earning £30 per-hour.

“It therefore should be no surprise that 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.

“We are the consultants, the GPs and the speciality doctors of the future whom the Department of Health is dependent upon to turn around our crisis-hit health service.”

Junior Doctors strike at RVH Junior doctors on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital as they take part in their first ever industrial action over pay. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

Dr Griffin said there had been a “lack of meaningful engagement” from the Department of Health on addressing their pay asks.

She said: “We had hoped the undeniable strength of feeling returned in our ballot would be recognised and there would be swift action from the minister and department of Health to avert the strike.

“Frustratingly, this has not happened.

“Instead, we have been dismissed with an offer that was essentially the minimum we could have been given.

“Hearing that any further pay discussions will have to wait until England’s pay negotiations have concluded is ridiculous and unacceptable.

“It adds to the palpable sense among junior doctors that we are not valued for the service we provide.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The industrial action on Wednesday will cause significant disruption to patient care.

“The minister and department remain committed to negotiations with the BMA Junior Doctors Committee.

“This offers the best prospect of deescalating the situation.”

The spokesperson added: “In line with independent pay body recommendations, junior doctors in Northern Ireland have been offered an average pay increase of 9.1% for 2023/24 with those in their first year receiving a 10.7% uplift.

“This award will be backdated to April 2023 and should be viewed in the context of pay settlements across the wider Northern Ireland public sector.

“In relation to 2023/24 pay, the department is only in a position to implement the recommendations of independent pay review bodies or mirror pay settlements in England.

“This approach is being applied to all health service staffing groups. It is not possible to make exceptions.

“While there are clear limits in relation to 2023/24, there are grounds for productive negotiations with the BMA Junior Doctors Committee on a number of fronts.

“These include 2024/25 junior doctor pay; potentially reforming the current junior contract in Northern Ireland; and addressing areas of concern on working conditions and other non-pay issues.”