UK

Union urges junior doctors to accept pay offer from Welsh Government

BMA Cymru Wales said members including junior doctors, specialist doctors and consultants will now vote on the offers.

Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital in January
Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital in January (Ben Birchall/PA)

The British Medical Association (BMA) has recommended that junior doctors, specialist doctors and consultants accept new pay offers from the Welsh Government.

Under the deals, junior doctors have been offered a 7.4% additional uplift, taking the total to a 12.4% uplift for 2023-24, which will be backdated to April last year.

A revised consultant pay scale has been proposed, providing higher career earnings, increased starting pay, and an additional pay rise of up to 10.1% for some consultant doctors.

Specialist doctors will see pay offers for newer contracts increase between 6.1 to 9.2%, as well as an additional uplift for associate specialists – senior doctors who are on closed contracts.

The offers also include non-pay elements, as well as reform of pay scales and contract terms.

They follow weeks of pay negotiations between BMA Cymru Wales and the Welsh Government, which began in April this year following 10 days of strike action by junior doctors.

A planned two-day strike by consultants and specialist doctors was suspended to enable the talks to begin.

Members of the union will vote on whether to accept the offers between June 12 and June 26.

In a joint statement, Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairmen of the BMA’s Welsh Junior Doctors Committee, said the deal “delivers on our ambition”.

They said: “We entered pay negotiations in good faith to reach a deal that will put us on the path to achieving full pay restoration to address the years of erosion to our pay.

“We’re satisfied that this offer delivers on our ambition. This offer puts us well on the path to pay restoration.

Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital in January
Junior doctors on the picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital in January (Ben Birchall/PA)

“We are therefore encouraging members to vote to accept this deal. It is a testament to the resolve they have shown in taking part in industrial action to achieve a better future for the profession.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, the union’s consultants committee chairman, said the offer “honours our overwhelming strike mandate” but described it as “just the first step” in improving pay and working conditions.

“The offer is recognition of the hard work and dedication of senior doctors and signifies a commitment to attracting and retaining doctors in Wales by offering a fairer more competitive value for their service,” Dr Kelly added.

“Whilst ultimately it will be up for members to decide, we believe the offer is a big step in the right direction for the profession and so we are recommending that members accept it.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chairman of the union’s specialty and specialist (SAS) doctor committee, paid tribute to members who had voted to strike to “stand up for themselves and their colleagues”.

“By taking part and getting us here they have played a part in securing a better future for SAS doctors in Wales,” Dr Nazir added.

“We are encouraging members to vote to accept this offer.”

In a joint statement issued by the Welsh Government, First Minister Vaughan Gething and Health Minister Eluned Morgan described the offers as “at the limit of our affordability”.

They said: “While strike action has been paused during negotiations, if these offers are accepted, it will end this dispute and industrial action, meaning doctors will return to work in Wales for the benefit of patients and NHS services.

“The negotiations have been robust and while the aim was to end the 2023-24 dispute and prevent further disruptive strike action, these offers also ensure the additional investment in doctors’ pay is balanced against commitments towards operational reforms, which seek to address productivity and efficiency and achieving future contract reform.

“These pay awards, if accepted, will also help to address inequalities in the senior NHS medical workforce.

“These offers are at the limit of our affordability. We have been open and transparent about our financial constraints with our social partners during negotiations.”

The Welsh Government said the offer for junior doctors, if agreed, was outside of the Doctor and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) recommendation for 2023-24 and in line with the award accepted by junior doctors in Scotland.

There will be new contract negotiations once a new BMA junior doctors committee is elected this year, to reach an agreement that would be implemented in 2025-26.

A modern pay structure will be put in place for consultants to “better support recruitment and retention”, which will be backdated to January 1 this year.

This will also be outside of the DDRB recommendation for 2023-23, the Welsh Government said.

Consultants will be offered a 4% uplift of pay scales for 2022-23, making a total increase of 9% for 2023-24 that will be backdated to January 1 for associate specialists.