“Demoralised and burnt out” consultants and SAS doctors in Wales to vote on strike action over pay
From today, BMA Cymru Wales’ consultant and SAS (specialist, associate specialist and speciality) doctor members will have the chance to vote on whether to strike over their pay which has been cut by almost a third in real terms since 2008/9.
The ballots, which will be open to all BMA consultants and SAS doctor members in Wales, are set to run concurrently for six weeks closing on 4 March.
Consultant and SAS doctors make up over half (54%) of the hospital-based medical workforce combined, with 3,137 Consultants and 1,088 SAS doctors working in hospitals across Wales.
The decision to ballot members was taken after the BMA rejected the Welsh Government’s first and final pay offer for the 2023/24 financial year for those working in secondary care.
For consultants and SAS doctors on closed contracts the offer was 5%; SAS doctors on more recent contracts received as little as 1.5%. This final offer left BMA Cymru Wales with no choice but to enter a trade dispute and ballot for strike action.
Over the last 15 years, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of almost a third since 2008/9. They received another sub-inflationary pay offer from the Welsh Government for 2023-24 which is below the recommendation made by the DDRB and is the worst offer in the UK.
Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales consultants committee, said: “Whilst no doctor wants to strike, years of chronic underinvestment in the NHS workforce in has led us here. With rising waiting lists, demand has completely outstretched capacity in NHS Wales. Colleagues regularly tell me things are worse than they ever have been and subsequently choose to retire early or leave NHS Wales.
“Doctors and patients deserve better than this. Investing in staff retention should be the Welsh Government’s number one priority when looking to improve NHS services and so quite simply we have run out of options.”
Welsh SAS committee deputy chair Dr Julie Jones said: “We are demoralised and burnt out. Day in day out we want to provide patients with the quality care they deserve, but huge staffing gaps are making this work impossible. We all deserve better than this.
“We want to serve our patients who are our top priority, but poor pay and even worse conditions have forced us to take this step.”
The ballots, which will run concurrently, will be open to consultant and SAS doctor members working in the Welsh NHS.
On Monday 15th January, junior doctors in Wales began a 72-hour full walkout which saw thousands of junior doctors withdraw their labour from Welsh hospitals and GP surgeries in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service.
Meanwhile contract negotiations between Welsh Government, NHS Wales and BMA Cymru Wales’ GP committee ended without resolution in October, leading to a stark warning on the future of General Practice from GP leaders. GPC Wales is now lobbying the Welsh Government for an urgent financial rescue package to save the service from collapse.
Welsh Government response
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that BMA are balloting their consultant and specialist doctor members for industrial action.
“We understand the strength of feeling among doctors, and while we wish to address their pay restoration ambitions, the 5% increase for 2023-4 is at the limits of the finances available to us. It also reflects the agreement reached with the other health unions for this year.
“We will continue to press the UK Government to pass on the funding necessary for full and fair pay rises for public sector workers. Without that additional funding, we are not in a position to currently offer any more.
“We remain committed to working in social partnership with the British Medical Association and are available for further talks at any stage”.
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