Northern Ireland

Only ‘credible’ pay offer can avert consultants strike on June 26

Senior doctors will take part in 24-hour strike action unless pay issue is quickly resolved, BMA warns

Consultants will be balloted from next month over taking industrial action over a pay dispute.
Consultants are set to strike in the north over pay on June 26.

A “credible” pay offer is now required to avert a strike by hospital consultants across the north this month after a ballot backing industrial action.

Senior doctors plan to take part in a 24-hour walkout on June 26 after 92% of those eligible backed a strike following a five-week ballot by the British Medical Association NI.

Members have warned the issue of pay must be resolved, and said a workforce crisis is set to worsen, leading to longer waiting times for patients.

The BMA has said consultants’ pay has fallen by up to 30% since 2008, while consultants in the Republic are paid double the salary of their counterparts north of the border.

Consultants in England, meanwhile, have recently accepted a new pay offer, while pay talks have begun in Wales.

The ballot result follows a 24-hour strike by junior doctors in the north over pay in March.

BMA NI consultants committee chair, Dr David Farren, said the latest ballot result “should be a resounding message to the health minister that he needs to act”.

“We were told that he needed to see what was happening in England before he took any decisions, despite the other nations moving ahead with pay discussions. Now all we can see is that consultants here are moving further away from being paid the same as colleagues in the rest of the UK,” Dr Farren said.

“Our health service cannot run without doctors. Consultants are ultimately responsible for the care of patients, they train the doctors of the future, they innovate, research and lead. They need to be properly rewarded for what they do.”

Dr Farren said BMA members “genuinely did not want to have to go this far” but “there seems to be no other option and the result clearly demonstrates consultants here have had enough”.

He added: “The Minister must now present a credible offer that we can put to our members and hopefully avert a strike on June 26.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said the health service faced “escalating budgetary pressures”, but pay discussions have been continuing with the BMA, and “further engagement is planned this week and will focus on pay issues, including the settlement in England”.