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Junior doctors on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast Alamy Stock Photo
Industrial Action

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland holding 24-hour walkout over pay conditions

Demonstrations are taking place today at Altnagelvin, Craigavon, Antrim and Ulster Hospitals.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Mar

JUNIOR DOCTORS IN Northern Ireland have begun a 24-hour walkout for the first time in a dispute over pay. 

Doctors withdrew their labour from hospitals and GP surgeries at 8am. 

Demonstrations are taking place today at Altnagelvin, Craigavon, Antrim and Ulster Hospitals. 

The strike action was called after 97.6% of junior doctors balloted by British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland voted in favour of industrial action. 

The BMA has said junior doctors pay has been reduced by over 30% in the past 16 years. 

Dr Fiona Griffin, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said junior doctors working in Northern Ireland range from being newly qualified doctors earning less than £13 per-hour to experienced surgeons, oncologists and cardiologists earning £30 per-hour.

The current base starting salary for junior doctors in the North is around £26,000.

Dr Griffin said many are considering leaving Northern Ireland to work elsewhere for “better pay and working conditions”. 

“No doctor wants to strike, but we feel we have been left with no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We are no longer going to put up with unacceptable pay and conditions; they are causing an acute workforce crisis that is not being taken seriously,” she said. 

Dr Griffin said there has been a lack of “meaningful engagement” from Northern Ireland’s Department of Health on addressing the junior doctors pay asks. 

Junior doctors in the North have so far been offered a pay increase of 9.1% for 2023/2024. The Northern Ireland Department of Health said this would be backdated to April 2023.

So far, the Department’s offers have been rejected. 

The Department said that in relation to the 2023/2024 pay, it is only in a position to implement the recommendations of independent pay review bodies or mirror pay settlements in England. 

“This approach is being applied to all health service staffing groups. It is not possible to make exceptions,” it said. 

The Department said that while there are “clear limits” in relation to 2023/3024, “there are grounds for productive negotiations with the BMA junior doctors committee on a number of fronts. 

It said this includes 2024/2025 junior doctor pay, potentially reforming the current junior doctor contract in Northern Ireland and addressing areas of concerns on working conditions and other non-pay issues. 

The Northern Ireland Department of Health has advised patients there will be “significant disruption” to services today. 

Most scheduled activity – planned operations and outpatient clinics – will not take place today in order to free up the senior medical force, the Department said. 

“Due to the requirement for senior medical staff to cover roles normally carried out by junior doctors over this period, there will be substantial disruption to planned hospital activity both on the strike day itself, and subsequently as services recover from the strike day,” the Department said. 

The NI Department of Health has been contacted for comment. 

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