Doctors in Wales encouraged to accept new pay offer to end dispute

Junior doctors on strike in January this year
-Credit: (Image: Richard Swingler Photography)

Doctors in Wales have been urged to accept new pay offers from the Welsh Government. Under the deals junior doctors, specialist doctors and consultants have been offered salary uplifts, as well as reform of pay scales and contract terms.

If accepted, they could bring the long-running pay dispute - which has seen junior doctors strike for ten days so far this year - to an end in Wales. The new offers comes after negotiations between British Medical Association (BMA) Cymru Wales - the BMA being the trade union for UK doctors - and the Welsh Government, which started in April this year, reports PA.

A planned two-day strike by consultants and specialist doctors was called off to so the talks could begin. Now the BMA says it is "satisfied" with the deal and has urged its members to vote in favour of it, while government ministers described the offers as “at the limit of our affordability."

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If the deals are accepted, junior doctors will get a 7.4% additional uplift, taking the total to a 12.4% uplift for 2023-24, which will be backdated to April last year. Meanwhile, consultants will get a revised pay scale, providing higher career earnings, increased starting pay, and an additional pay rise of up to 10.1% for some consultant doctors.

Specialist doctors will see pay offers for newer contracts increase between 6.1% and 9.2%, as well as an additional uplift for associate specialists – senior doctors who are on closed contracts. The offers also include non-pay elements, as well as reform of pay scales and contract terms. Members of the union will vote on whether or not to accept the offers between June 12 and June 26. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

In a joint statement, Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairmen of the BMA’s Welsh Junior Doctors Committee, said the deal “delivers on our ambition”. They said: “We entered pay negotiations in good faith to reach a deal that will put us on the path to achieving full pay restoration to address the years of erosion to our pay.

"We’re satisfied that this offer delivers on our ambition. This offer puts us well on the path to pay restoration. We are therefore encouraging members to vote to accept this deal. It is a testament to the resolve they have shown in taking part in industrial action to achieve a better future for the profession.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, the union’s consultants committee chairman, said the offer “honours our overwhelming strike mandate” but described it as “just the first step” in improving pay and working conditions. “The offer is recognition of the hard work and dedication of senior doctors and signifies a commitment to attracting and retaining doctors in Wales by offering a fairer, more competitive value for their service,” he added.

“Whilst ultimately it will be up for members to decide, we believe the offer is a big step in the right direction for the profession and so we are recommending that members accept it.” Dr Ali Nazir, chairman of the union’s specialty and specialist (SAS) doctor committee, paid tribute to members who had voted to strike to “stand up for themselves and their colleagues”. By taking part and getting us here they have played a part in securing a better future for SAS doctors in Wales,” he said. “We are encouraging members to vote to accept this offer.”

Junior doctors outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay in January this year -Credit:WalesOnline/Rob Browne
Junior doctors outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay in January this year -Credit:WalesOnline/Rob Browne

In a joint statement issued by the Welsh Government, First Minister Vaughan Gething and Health Minister Eluned Morgan described the offers as “at the limit of our affordability”. They said: “While strike action has been paused during negotiations, if these offers are accepted, it will end this dispute and industrial action, meaning doctors will return to work in Wales for the benefit of patients and NHS services.

“The negotiations have been robust, and while the aim was to end the 2023-24 dispute and prevent further disruptive strike action, these offers also ensure the additional investment in doctors’ pay is balanced against commitments towards operational reforms, which seek to address productivity and efficiency and achieving future contract reform.

“These pay awards, if accepted, will also help to address inequalities in the senior NHS medical workforce. These offers are at the limit of our affordability. We have been open and transparent about our financial constraints with our social partners during negotiations.”

The Welsh Government said the offer for junior doctors, if agreed, was outside the Doctor and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) recommendation for 2023-24 and in line with the award accepted by junior doctors in Scotland. There will be new contract negotiations once a new BMA junior doctors committee is elected this year, to reach an agreement that would be implemented in 2025-26.

A modern pay structure will be put in place for consultants to “better support recruitment and retention”, which will be backdated to January 1 this year. This will also be outside the DDRB recommendation for 2023-23, the Welsh Government said. Consultants will be offered a 4% uplift of pay scales for 2022-23, making a total increase of 9% for 2023-24 that will be backdated to January 1 for associate specialists.

Andrew RT Davies MS, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “After offering the worse settlement figure in the UK the Labour Government claimed there was no money to meet the pay increase. Now it appears the money was always there and whilst the Welsh Government were dithering, Wales’ longest waiting-lists on record have been exacerbated. The Welsh Conservatives have been clear that we would spend the full Barnett uplift received for health on health to end Labour’s inhuman two-year waiting-lists.”

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