Junior doctors urged to vote for strike action over pay deal

Junior medics have warned the Scottish Government this is their 'last chance' to resolve the dispute over a pay rise.

Scottish junior doctors urged to vote for strike action in ‘last chance’ ultimatum to Holyrood over pay deal iStock

Junior doctors are being urged to back strike action in their battle with Holyrood for higher pay.

BMA members who are junior doctors in Scotland will receive a ballot on Wednesday asking them if they support walkouts as part of their campaign for a pay rise.

Dr Chris Smith, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee, said junior doctors had seen their pay drop 23.5% in real terms since 2008 and added: “This historical injustice must be corrected and our pay restored. Junior doctors are undervalued, demoralised and facing burnout.”

But the Scottish Government said the demands were “simply unaffordable” and industrial action “would be in no one’s interest”.

Voting will close on May 5, and if strikes are backed the doctors will begin their action with a 72-hour full walkout on weekdays.

Dates for the strikes would be confirmed in the days after the successful ballot, the BMA said.

Junior doctors would not provide emergency care during the strike, with NHS boards needing to arrange emergency cover.

Dr Smith said newly qualified junior doctors, who make up 44% of NHS Scotland doctors, earn around £14 an hour and the Scottish Government had “repeatedly refused to commit” to “meaningful and formal negotiations over full pay restoration”.

“This is the Scottish Government’s last chance to engage with us positively, with respect and recognising our concerns about how poor pay is impacting on the workforce, retention of doctors and therefore the care the NHS can provide,” he said.

“I urge the new cabinet secretary for health to make this their number one priority if they want to avoid disruptive strike action, which is almost certainly coming if they continue their current approach.

“And I urge my junior doctor colleagues across Scotland to vote in our ballot and add their voice to our Scottish fight for full pay restoration.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said junior doctors are “vital to NHS Scotland” and the then health secretary Humza Yousaf “offered to meet with the BMA to discuss their concerns around pay and arrangements at the end of February”.

“We’ve been clear their demands for an above retail price index pay increase, plus an additional ask of 23.5% – meaning a pay raise of more than 35% – are simply unaffordable,” the spokesman said.

“In Scotland, junior doctors have already been awarded a 4.5% pay uplift for 2022/23 recommended by the independent Doctors and Dentist Pay Review Body, and we are disappointed this ballot will go ahead as industrial action would be in no one’s interests.”

The spokesman said the Scottish Government had written to the body with a separate recommendation for junior doctors, and added: “We been very open about the real fiscal challenges we face, have explored all options for 2022/23 and there’s no additional money for pay without cutting funding to the NHS and other public services.”

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