Longest junior doctor strike begins in Wales with 'patients to bear the brunt' of walkout

  • Junior doctors on the picket line outside the University Hospital of Wales say they "can't carry on like this".

Thousands of junior doctors in Wales are starting a four-day strike today in what is their longest period of industrial action yet.

It is the third strike this year over a dispute with the Welsh Government over pay and working conditions.

Junior Doctors say their pay has been cut by almost a third since 2008 and the Welsh Government's below inflation five percent pay rise offer, is the worst in the UK.

They add that it's lower than that recommended by the review body for Doctors' and Dentists Renumeration.

Lucy Hall is one of many junior doctors on the picket line outside the University Hospital of Wales.

The Welsh Government says it can't afford more than a five percent rise. The 96-hour walkout starts from 7am on Monday 25 March through to 7am on Friday 29th March.

Around 3,000 junior doctors are expected to picket outside hospitals across Wales.

Lucy Hall is one of many junior doctors on the picket line outside the University Hospital of Wales.

"I am not nearly thirty percent less valuable than my colleagues ten years ago." She said.

"I'm still doing the same job, I'm still facing the same challenges and difficulties at work but instead I'm not also worrying about the bills on top of that.

"I come to work and I worry about whether I can turn my heating on in the evening and that shouldn't be my priority, patient care should be my priority."

Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ Junior Doctors Committee have 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.

41% of outpatient appointments and 61% of operations were postponed across Wales in January’s three-day walkout by junior doctors. Credit: PA

"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.”

The four day strike will take place from Monday 25th March through to 7am on Friday 29th March. Credit: PA

Since the last junior doctor strike, consultants and SAS doctors (specialist, associate specialist, and speciality) have also voted to strike over an industrial dispute over their pay with the Welsh Government.

Their two-day walkout is scheduled to take place from 7am on Tuesday 16 April.

In response to the industrial action, Nesta Lloyd-Jones from the Welsh NHS Confederation, has said: "NHS leaders understand the financial challenges facing the Welsh Government, but it is disappointing that the BMA and government have still not been able to find a solution to the ongoing pay dispute.

"Next week will see the triple challenge of school holidays, strike action followed by the four-day bank holiday weekend. The combination of reduced capacity and potential increased demand will have a significant knock-on effect on the NHS in the days and weeks after the walkout action has taken place.

“Patient safety is of course the number one priority. Health leaders and their teams will pull out all the stops to fill rotas, but the reality is patients will bear the greatest burden, with around 41 per cent of outpatient appointments and 61 per cent of operations postponed across Wales in January’s three-day walkout by junior doctors.

“It’s vital Wales’ new First Minister and the for Health and Social Care engage with health trade unions to prevent further industrial action in the NHS. Industrial action is and will continue to have a huge impact on service delivery, undoing much of the good work that has been done to recover performance following the pandemic.”

The Health Secretary has continued to say the Welsh Government cannot offer anymore money to junior doctors.

Russell George MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “The blame for these unprecedented junior doctor strikes lies squarely at the door of the Labour Government.

“Labour’s Health Minister, who remains in post in Vaughan Gething’s cabinet, has consistently put the worst offer in the UK on the table, failing to even meet the independent pay review body’s recommendations.

“The Welsh Conservatives have a plan to spend the full Barnett uplift received for health on health and would at least match the independent recommendation, the cost of which is far lower than the cost of Labour and Plaid’s plans to create 36 more politicians.”

Wales' Health Secretary Eluned Morgan has said previously that the Welsh Government does not have the budget available to increase the pay deal.

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

Ms Morgan has also previously 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.

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