Thousands of junior doctors in Wales will strike this morning for the third time this year in a continuing pay dispute. The 96-hour strike will see just under 4,000 doctors take industrial action, with appointments at hospitals and GPs set to be postponed across the country. The strike starts at 7am today and will last until 7am on Friday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is arguing for better pay, insisting that doctors’ salaries have dropped by almost a third in 15 years. But the Welsh Government insists the 5% on offer is at the limits of what it can afford.

The BMA held strikes in Wales in January and February after almost every junior doctor (98%) who took part in the ballot for industrial action voted to strike in pursuit of pay restoration, a campaign to restore their pay. The Welsh junior doctors committee decided to ballot members in August after being offered another below-inflation pay offer of 5% – the worst in the UK and lower than recommended by the DDRB (the review body for Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration).

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Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ Junior Doctors Committee said: “It’s extremely sad and frustrating that we find ourselves here again, our third strike and our longest yet. We don’t want to be in this position but again, faced with inaction, we are left with no choice.

“We want to reiterate that the strikes can be called off at any time if the Welsh Government put forward a credible pay offer to form the basis of talks. “Whilst we continue to be undervalued, and disregarded for our work in the health service our resolve to restore our pay remains unbroken, enough is enough.

“Junior doctors are starting their careers earning £13.65 an hour in Wales. Is that all they are worth? They are providing lifesaving care after training for years and are shouldering up to £100,000 of debt.

“We will continue our fight for fair pay for all doctors working in the NHS. It is no surprise that we are losing doctors as they search for better pay and conditions elsewhere. Losing our doctors at a time when waiting lists are at record highs will mean patients suffering more than they are already.”

Junior doctors are among the public health sector workers who have took action as of recent
Junior doctors are among the public health sector workers who have took action as of recent

Next month, Welsh consultants and other senior doctors are set to hold a 48-hour walkout, starting on April 16. The Welsh Government, NHS Wales and the BMA say they are working together to ensure patient safety is protected while junior doctors undertake industrial action.

The head of NHS Wales, Judith Paget, has warned the impact on services will be significant, and appointments and procedures will need to be rescheduled. Urgent and emergency care will be provided for those in need.

Ms Paget warned people, particularly those with repeat prescriptions, to plan ahead for the strikes, which will occur just before the Easter bank holidays. She said: “We ask people to use alternatives to emergency departments if their need is not critical during the strike period.

“Alternatives include NHS 111 online or by phone, and pharmacies. If your appointment is not going ahead, your health board will contact you to let you know. If you aren’t contacted, please attend your appointment as planned.

“Your local health board will provide the latest information in your area.” The BMA Cymru wrote to Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales following his swearing in last Wednesday, encouraging him to end the pay dispute.

Vaughan Gething
Vaughan Gething

BMA Cymru Wales’ acting chairman Dr Phil White said: “Industrial action is a decision not taken lightly by our members and seen as a last resort. Wales, the birthplace of the NHS, is home to an underfunded and under-resourced health service.

“This is reflected in some of the longest waiting times in the United Kingdom, ultimately throwing safe levels of access to care and treatment into jeopardy.

“Your vision for a healthy Wales mirrors the ethos and vision of doctors across the country who strive to deliver this daily.

“However, as an association, we are clear that this future cannot be achieved without the appropriate funding.”