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Senior doctors in Wales vote to take strike action over pay

04 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Photo Peter Byrne PA Images

Consultants and SAS (specialist, associate specialist, and speciality) doctors have voted to strike next month as part of a dispute with the Welsh Government over pay.

The results of the ballots, which ended at midday today (Monday 4 March), for doctors working in both branches of practice in Wales saw 86% of consultant voters and 94% SAS doctor voters cast their ballots in favour of industrial action.

A significant 70% of consultants and 58% SAS doctors eligible to vote in Wales had responded to a call to take part in industrial action which will take place from Tuesday 16 April.
To put it a bit more clearly 70% of consultants and 58% SAS doctors who are members came out to vote, which saw 86% of consultant voters and 94% SAS doctor voters vote in favour of strike action.

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 BMA is now calling on all consultants and SAS doctors in Wales to participate in the 48 hour strike, except for those providing ‘Christmas day’ cover.

Emergency care

This level of cover will ensure doctors can still provide emergency care, but all elective or non-emergency work will be postponed during this period.

BMA Cymru Wales says it is working with NHS employers on precise staffing levels that are appropriate and will provide guidance to members in advance of any strike days.

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of the BMA’s consultants committee in Wales, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision. No doctor wants to strike, but the conditions now faced in the workplace caused by the extreme pressures on the service and unsafe staffing levels have left doctors with no choice.

“Fewer doctors now want to develop their careers in Wales with some health boards reporting vacancy rates of over third for senior doctor posts.

“Colleagues are now choosing to retire early, reduce their hours or move out of Wales where pay is competitive, and wards better staffed.

“Unless doctors are better valued for the work they do, more and more doctors will leave an NHS already under severe pressure in Wales”.

Burning out

Dr Julie Jones, Deputy chair of the BMA’s SAS doctors committee in Wales added: “Doctors are burning out from covering significant gaps in the workforce and patient safety is at risk. With this result our members have chosen to take a stand for the profession and for patients.

“People are waiting for treatment for longer than ever before, resulting in poorer outcomes and more time in the hospital and we all deserve better.

“This result represents a profession that is not ready to give up on the NHS and its patients in 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%. According to the union, SAS doctors on more recent contracts received as little as 2.5%.

The BMA says that over the last 15 years, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of almost a third.

It is calling on the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding to enable discussions around an uplift in senior doctor pay that will retain existing doctors and ensure that more can be recruited.

Junior doctors in Wales will begin their third round of strike action over pay, a 96-hour full walkout from 7am Monday 25 March.


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “While we recognise the strength of feeling among members, we are disappointed by the ballot outcome by the BMA and its consultant and specialist doctor members.

“We agree with the principle of pay restoration and 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.

“The 5% increase for 2023-24 is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the agreement reached with the other health unions for this year.

“We remain committed to working in social partnership with the British Medical Association and are available for further talks at any stage.

“We will work with the NHS, unions and partners to ensure life-saving and life-maintaining care is provided during the industrial action, and patient safety is maintained.”

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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

With England and Scotland likely offering more money and in some specialties slightly less hassle it is a no-brainer to leave for another job over the border. In microcosm that is like the UK v Australia or the USA. The service will collapse for want of staff.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

What is an “associate specialist”? Are they “associates” in the same way with physician associates and anaesthetist associates that don’t have a degree or even study medicine?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Heads need banging together, if you are waiting for Rishi Ji he does not care how many suffer and die, we are nothing to him or the present Igor who masquerades as a minister of state now that the knuckle-dragger as departed…

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