UK

Junior doctors in Wales begin 72-hour walkout in fresh strike action over pay

More than 3,000 doctors were expected to take part in the industrial action.

The British Medical Association said doctors’ salaries had dropped by almost a third in 15 years
Junior doctors on a picket line at a hospital The British Medical Association said doctors’ salaries had dropped by almost a third in 15 years (Ben Birchall/PA)

Thousands of junior doctors across Wales were beginning another round of strike action on Wednesday, demanding a “credible pay offer” from the Welsh government.

The 72-hour full walkout was expected to see more than 3,000 doctors taking industrial action, with appointments at hospitals and GPs set to be postponed across the county.

The strike was starting at 7am on Wednesday and would last until 7am on Saturday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is arguing for better pay, insisting that doctors’ salaries have dropped by almost a third in 15 years.

But the Welsh government insists the 5% on offer is at the limits of what it can afford.

This will be the second strike this year, following a previous walkout in mid-January.

NHS Wales chief executive Judith Paget said the BMA had worked with the health service to ensure patient safety was protected during the strike but urged people to consider other options to attending hospital to help reduce pressure.

During the last strike, around 41% of outpatient appointments and 61% of operations were postponed across Wales.

Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ Junior Doctors Committee, said: “We can call off this strike today if the Welsh government put forward a credible pay offer to form the basis of talks.

“No doctor wants to strike but years of undervaluing our life-saving service have led us here. Junior doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of 29.6% in real terms over the last 15 years.

“Junior doctors are starting their careers earning £13.65 an hour. Is that all they are worth? They are providing lifesaving care after training for years and are shouldering up to £100,000 of debt.”

The pair said it was “no surprise” that the NHS was losing doctors searching for better pay and conditions elsewhere, which added to the pressure of already high waiting lists.

They added: “We aren’t asking for a pay rise – we are asking for our pay to be restored in line with inflation back to 2008 levels, when we began to receive pay cuts in real terms.

“Pay needs to be fair and competitive with other healthcare systems across the world to retain and recruit doctors to provide the care that patients in Wales deserve.”

Welsh government health minister Eluned Morgan said: “We are disappointed that junior doctors have decided to take further industrial action in Wales, but we understand their strength of feeling about our 5% pay offer,” she said.

“Our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other health unions.

“But we will continue to press the UK Government to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.”