Across Wales junior doctors have started a 72-hour walkout over pay and the strike action is taking place on of the “most pressurised weeks of the year, following recent weeks of significant winter pressures,” the Welsh NHS Confederation has warned.
The doctors’ trade union, BMA Cymru Wales said the strike action is part of a pay restoration campaign as their salary has eroded by almost a third.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said, “We are disappointed junior doctors have voted for industrial action, but we understand the strength of feeling among BMA members.
“We would like to address their pay restoration ambitions, but the pay award offer we have made is at the limits of the finances available to us and reflects the position reached with the other unions.
“We continue to press the UK Government to pass on the funding necessary to provide full and fair pay rises for public sector workers.
“The UK Government has failed, over the last 13 years, to properly fund public services.
“The Welsh Government’s budget in 2024 to 2025 would be £3 billion higher if it had grown in line with the economy since 2010.
“Because of the recent inflation shock, our settlement next year is worth up to £1.3 billion less in real terms than expected when it was first set in 2021.”
Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’s junior doctors committee, said: “No doctor wants to strike.
“We had hoped the Welsh Government had properly understood the strength of feeling amongst junior doctors in Wales.
“Sadly, their inaction over this matter has led us here today, demoralised, frustrated and angry.
“After years of undervaluing our lifesaving service we feel we’ve been left with no choice but to stand up for the profession and say enough is enough, we cannot and will not accept the unacceptable anymore.
“Our members have been forced to take this difficult decision because junior doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of 29.6% in real terms over the last 15 years.
“A doctor starting their career in Wales will earn as little as £13.65 an hour and for that they could be performing lifesaving procedures and taking on huge levels of responsibility.
“We aren’t asking for a pay rise – we are asking for our pay to be restored in line with inflation back to 2008 levels, when we began to receive pay cuts in real terms.
“Pay needs to be fair and competitive with other healthcare systems across the world to retain and recruit doctors and NHS staff to provide much-needed care.
“On top of this junior doctors are experiencing worsening conditions and so doctors are now looking to leave Wales to develop their careers for better pay and a better quality of life elsewhere.
“This is not a decision that has been made lightly. 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 and we are in a vicious cycle of crippling staffing shortages and worsening patient care.”
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “It’s a concern for NHS leaders that this industrial action will be taking place on one of the most pressurised weeks of the year, following recent weeks of significant winter pressures.
“Inevitably there will be a knock-on effect on the NHS’s capacity to perform the balancing act of winter pressures versus making inroads into the elective backlog.
“Staff and managers have therefore been undertaking significant contingency planning to prepare for the industrial action, including working hard to fill rota gaps and rearrange existing non-urgent appointments and operations.
“NHS leaders know staff do not take the decision to strike lightly, as we all know the impact it has on patients and colleagues.
“The focus is now on mitigating risks as far as possible.”