'We've been pushed to do this' says Welsh junior doctor as strike ballot opens

  • ITV Wales spoke to Dr Peter Fahey, one of the co-chairs of the junior doctors committee.

A junior doctor has warned waiting lists in Wales "cannot be brought down" if the NHS continues to lose staff to other countries and careers, as a ballot was opened for strike action.

Junior doctors across Wales are being balloted for strike action, with the British Medical Association Cymru saying "it has no choice" but to "enter a trade dispute."

Peter Fahey, a junior doctor in Wales and co-chair of the Welsh junior doctor's committee for the British Medical Association (BMA) said "doctors have been pushed" by the government to take action.

He said: "Our dispute is about pay. What we're asking is a full pay restoration back to 2008 levels. Since then doctors have lost 29.6% in real terms.

"Doctors who are looking after hundreds of patients overnight are currently paid less than £14 an hour. What we are asking is for them to be paid £19 an hour."

The ballot is set to run for six weeks closing on 18 December. If successful it will lead to a 72-hour full walk-out. Credit: PA Images

Dr Fahey also raised his concerns about more doctors moving to Australia or New Zealand due to "better treatment".

He said: "I've got many colleagues and friends who have chosen to leave the NHS to go and work in other jobs because the conditions are so bad and they are going to work in Australia or New Zealand where they are paid better and they are treated better.

"If this pay dispute is not resolved then we're going to end up in a situation where we'll be losing more and more doctors every year."

Dr Fahey added: "The reason for strike action is that the government has said that 5% is the final offer and therefore, the only avenue available to us to bring them back to the table is to vote for strike action."

The Welsh Government says it can't offer more than a 5% increase without additional UK Government funding.

But the BMA Cymru disagrees, saying junior doctors have been given what it describes as "the worst offer in the UK."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "It is disappointing that doctors are balloting for industrial action.

"We understand the strength of feeling among doctors about the 5% pay offer and the pressures all public sector workers are under due to the cost-of-living crisis."

Emphasising the financial constraints, the government added: "While we would wish to address the pay restoration ambitions of our vital medical staff, our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other health unions for this year.  

A Welsh government spokesperson said 'It is disappointing that doctors are balloting for industrial action.' Credit: PA Images

"Without additional funding from the UK Government, we are not in a position to currently offer any more.

"We will continue to press them 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 available for further talks at any stage."

The ballot is set to run for six weeks closing on 18 December. If successful it will lead to a 72-hour full walk-out.

A recent survey showed that 89% of responding junior doctors in Wales would be prepared to take industrial action if doctors' pay continued to be eroded in Wales.

The co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh junior doctor committee, Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey said: “The Welsh Government’s failure to value junior doctors and reverse years of pay erosion has forced us to enter a trade dispute.

"Junior doctors are embarking upon their careers shouldering significant student debts and facing increasing financial pressures.

"No doctor wants to take industrial action, but we have been given no choice. Doctors are already voting with their feet and leaving the NHS."

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