Junior doctors start 72-hour strike in row over pay and working conditions

Junior doctors in Wales are walking out for the second time in a row over pay and working conditions.

The three-day strike started at 7am this morning (Wednesday 21 February) and will last three days after an identical walkout in January.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Wales decided to ballot members in August with almost 98% voting in favour of industrial action.

Dr Peter Fahey, co-chair of the Welsh BMA junior doctors committee, said: "No doctor wants to go on strike.

"We signed up to do this, we studied for years, have up to £100,000 student debt - we’ve chosen to do this job and yet the Government has pushed us so far that we are walking out, we don’t want to do this.”

Junior doctors in Wales will walk out for three consecutive days starting on Wednesday morning. Credit: PA Images

Dr Peter Fahey continued: “Doctors are angry, they feel let down. I think it’s been clear that these are doctors that have gone into a pandemic with no knowledge, no PPE, anything.

"They’re on the front line and they’ve been let down, they’ve had a further real-time pay cut since the start of the pandemic."

Junior doctors want to see their starting pay increase from £13.65 an hour to £19 an hour.

The Welsh Government has offered a 5% pay rise, described as the worst in the UK, and said it cannot offer more money without additional funding.

Dr Fahey added: “The 5% pay offer this year is just a further insult to these doctors. It’s another real-terms pay cut and does nothing to address the 30% of pay erosion that we’ve had since 2008.”

Health is a devolved issue in Wales, meaning responsibility for pay, waiting lists, and budgets falls to the Labour administration.

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

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said further talks are welcomed, but that the Welsh Government does not have the budget available to increase the pay deal.

"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," Ms Morgan said.

"Our offer is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other health unions."

The Health Minister said she will continue to press the UK Government to pass on the funding necessary for "full and fair pay rises" for public sector workers.

The UK Government has previously said that Wales has received a record level of funding this year.

During the industrial action in January 41% per cent of outpatient appointments and 61% of operations were postponed across Wales.