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78% of doctors willing to strike over pay, survey suggests

Doctors rejected a 4.5% pay deal last month (Peter Byrne/PA)
Doctors rejected a 4.5% pay deal last month (Peter Byrne/PA)

More than three-quarters of doctors who took part in a recent survey have said they are prepared to strike in a pay dispute.

The study, undertaken by BMA Scotland, spoke to 3,100 medics north of the border between July 20 and August 5 after a 4.5% offer was rejected.

Of those asked, 78% said they would be willing to take part in strike action to deliver a better pay award.

Elsewhere, 90% said the offer was too low, while 88% said they feel their contribution to the NHS was not reflected in the offer, and 58% said they are more likely to leave the NHS.

BMA Scotland chairman Lewis Morrison said the results show the level of “dissatisfaction, disillusionment and indeed outright anger” doctors are feeling.

Dr Morrison added: “It puts the Scottish Government on warning that the status quo for doctors in Scotland is no longer acceptable and in truth hasn’t been for some time.

“This survey was about this year’s pay uplift, which in itself was completely unacceptable and amounted to a massive real terms pay cut.

“But it’s important to remember the wider context – where doctors have suffered years of pay erosion and are bearing the brunt of trying to care for patients in an NHS that is basically collapsing around them.

“And that’s after more than two years of heroic efforts on the frontline of the pandemic.

“Like many other public sector workers, doctors are now clearly saying enough is enough – we need action to make our working lives better, and there’s no doubt that pay is one of the key starting points.”

The chairman, who will leave the post at the end of this month, said he and his successor Iain Kennedy have written to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to arrange an “urgent meeting”.

BMA Scotland said the ‘status quo for doctors is no longer acceptable’ (Alamy/PA)

Dr Morrison added: “While that is ongoing, members on the committees that represent each individual separate branch of practice – so that is junior doctors, consultants, GPs, and staff and specialist doctors – will be considering and discussing the implications for their own members and their own next steps.

“As the pay award will impact on doctors at different stages of their careers, it’s only right that each committee is allowed to proceed on that basis.

“But if action isn’t forthcoming urgently to set out how the Scottish Government will address the need for change, we will all be guided by members on the next steps, and while it will ultimately be up to each committee on how to proceed, I would expect all options, including different types of industrial action and leaving the (Doctors and Dentists Remuneration Board) process will be on the table.

“Of course, no-one would ever take industrial action lightly and it would only be a last resort when other avenues have been exhausted.

“But it is clear from our survey that this is a live option, and members are willing to consider taking a variety of types of industrial action, up to and including strike action if required as a last resort.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The annual pay uplift of 4.5% for NHS medical staff is the largest since devolution and followed recommendations by the independent Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body (DDRB).

“The Scottish Government, BMA Scotland and other relevant stakeholders all participated and provided evidence to the DDRB to allow them to make their independent recommendations.

“This year’s award builds on the 3% uplift that was recommended and applied by the Scottish Government in 2021. This means staff have been awarded a 7.5% pay increase over the last two years. This award will see a senior consultant receive an uplift of more than £5,000 this year. Taken alongside last year’s pay award of 3%, senior consultant pay will have risen by over £8,500 in the past two years.

“This uplift demonstrates that we value all our medical and dental staff, and the important contribution they make. It’s crucial that we continue to not only recruit and build our future NHS workforce, but also retain expertise within NHS Scotland.

“Our senior medical staff will continue to be the best-paid in the UK and this will help ensure that NHS Scotland remains an attractive employment option for all medical staff.

“I have regular engagement with the BMA and will continue that dialogue.”