Junior Doctors in Northern Ireland to be balloted on industrial action over pay and work concerns

The department said it was "disappointed by the announcement" adding that it's "committed to pursuing all avenues to help achieve a resolution".

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland are to be balloted on industrial action, the British Medical Association (BMA) has announced.  

It comes after representatives for the group met with Permanent Secretary for the Department for Health, Peter May.

In a statement, the department said it was "disappointed by the announcement".

During the meeting, the BMA said junior doctors "outlined their concerns about pay and the unacceptable workplace pressures junior doctors are under while training and delivering patient care".

They also asked "for assurances that junior doctors would receive this year's pay uplift of 6% along with an above inflation award and that the department would work with them to achieve full pay restoration for junior doctors".

The BMA said "the permanent secretary was unable to give them these assurances and therefore the Northern Ireland Junior Doctors Committee (NIJDC) will now move to begin the process of balloting junior doctors in Northern Ireland for strike action".

NIJDC committee chair, Dr Fiona Griffin, said: “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly.

"We had hoped the Permanent Secretary would agree to commit to immediate action around pay and in doing so begin to address the ongoing pay erosion and poor terms and conditions for junior doctors.

"Regrettably that was not the case.

“There has been significant pay erosion for junior doctors over the past decade so now not only are we the only UK nation to not have received the DDRB-recommended pay uplift of 6%, but a junior doctor working here can also expect to be paid less than our colleagues working elsewhere in the UK and in other countries.” 

In response to the announcement, the department said it had "reiterated the position regarding the ongoing absence of pay offers for 2023/24".

"The reality is that implementing the pay offered in England for Agenda for Change health and social care staff, and implementing the recommendations of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, would require large scale cuts to services on an unprecedented scale, with severe and lasting implications for health and social care provision.

"The Department does not have the authority to make such cutbacks in the absence of a Minister.

"We also do not believe junior doctors or any other part of the health and social care workforce would want us to implement such measures."

It added that it "fully understands the deep-seated frustrations over the absence of pay offers".

"We recognise that this is not a sustainable position and remain committed to pursuing all avenues to help achieve a resolution.

"The Department respects the right of every individual to take industrial action. However, doing so at this time - with no route to a successful resolution currently available - would only further add to already severe pressures on services."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.