Posted: Sun 18th Feb 2024

Hospitals in Wales face ‘significant disruption’ as junior doctors begin three-day walkout from Wednesday

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Feb 18th, 2024

Up to 3,000 junior doctors from across Wales are set to participate in a 72-hour walkout beginning Wednesday, as part of a dispute over pay.

The strike, marking the first of two new rounds of action, follows a 72-hour walkout by junior doctors in January.

The industrial action comes in the absence of what the BMA has said is a ‘credible pay offer’, which would end their dispute with the Welsh Government.

Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ junior doctors committee, said:

“After our last round of action, we wrote to the minister for health and social services, and we remain ready to enter discussions if a credible offer is presented by the Welsh Government.

“No doctor wants to strike, but whilst those in power fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and the strength of feeling amongst our members, we feel we have been left with no choice.

“We can no longer accept the unacceptable. After years of undervaluing our lifesaving service, our resolve has never been stronger. With record-high membership, we’re now a bigger, stronger union, and together we remain steadfast in our aim to restore our pay which has been cut by almost a third.

“A doctor starting their career in Wales will earn as little as £13.65* an hour, and for that, they could be performing lifesaving procedures and taking on huge levels of responsibility.

“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 and NHS staff to provide much-needed care.

“On top of this, junior doctors are experiencing worsening conditions because of significant gaps in the workforce, and so more and more doctors are now looking to leave Wales to develop their careers for better pay and a better quality of life elsewhere.”

Strike action began in January after 98% of junior doctors in Wales who took part in the ballot for industrial action voted to strike in pursuit of pay restoration, a campaign to restore their pay which has been eroded by almost a third (29.6%) since 2008/9.

The next rounds of action could once again see over 3,000 doctors with up to 11 years of experience out of medical school withdraw their labour from Welsh hospitals and GP surgeries across Wales in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service.

Significant disruption expected

Urgent and life-threatening care will continue to be provided during this week’s strike in Wales, but significant disruption is expected to other services, the Welsh Government has said.

The head of NHS Wales, Judith Paget, has also urged everyone to help reduce the burden on the NHS by considering other options to attending hospital, unless they need urgent care.

Ahead of the industrial action, Health Minister Eluned Morgan has said the Welsh Government is always open to further talks, but they don’t have the budget available to increase the pay deal.

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.

“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.

“We remain committed to working in social partnership with the British Medical Association and are always open to have more talks.

NHS Wales Chief Executive Judith Paget said: “As during the last strike, we welcome the collaborative approach on patient safety taken by the British Medical Association. We have been working with them and NHS organisations to ensure patient safety is protected during the industrial action.

“We expect significant disruption to non-emergency and elective activities during the industrial action, with much work already been postponed. During the last strike, around 41% of outpatient appointments and 61% of operations were postponed across Wales. We expected services during the industrial action to resemble those generally provided on a Bank Holiday.

“However, if you have a critical need to attend an emergency department, you should still do so.

“But we are also urging everyone to consider the best option for them, including 111 online or phone service, or their local pharmacy.”

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