Doctors in Northern Ireland want pay parity with rest of UK, says union official

Doctors in Northern Ireland want pay parity with rest of UK, says union official

'Every pay award since 2019 has not only been below inflation, but awarded after substantial delay,' says doctors union representative

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - Junior doctors in Northern Ireland are paid less than anywhere else in the UK, according to a British Medical Association (BMA) official on Monday.

In an article, published on the BMA website, Steven Montgomery said that junior doctors in Northern Island have suffered most, compared to their colleagues in England, Scotland, and Wales.

"Every pay award since 2019 has not only been below inflation, but awarded after substantial delay, with the 2019 uplift received 18 months after it was announced," he said, adding they had an "over 30% pay cut in real terms since 2008."

He went on to say that the Department of Health's pay uplift of 6% actually makes the situation even worse, because it means a pay cut as it is less than the current rate of inflation.

Montgomery said this is a result of the budget set by Chris Heaton-Harris, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, in April which was approved in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive or Assembly.

Since the election of May 2022, Irish nationalists and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have failed to reach an agreement to form a new Executive in Belfast.

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- 'Many doctors have left Northern Ireland'

"Northern Ireland already struggles with staffing issues and the pay disparity with the rest of the UK contributes to this. We struggle to fill trainee jobs, which causes workforce gaps further up the ranks, creating a medical workforce crisis impacting on all grades and specialties," he said.

Saying that this contributes to the waiting list crisis, "which is the worst in the four nations of the UK," Montgomery underlined that the continued uncertainty with the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland means that these problems "will only continue to worsen."

"I already know of many doctors who have left Northern Ireland for jobs elsewhere in the UK and further afield," he said, adding there are reports from these doctors about "how much better the working conditions are."

Montgomery called for fixing pay for junior doctors working in Northern Ireland as soon as possible to avoid further drop in the number of doctors working or applying for jobs there.

The UK has faced several strikes and protests by the NHS staff over pay disputes and working conditions. Lack of workforce resulting in long waiting lists at A&E services are among the complaints made by the public and staff alike.

Early July, senior doctors across England held a 48-hour strike, their first industrial action in a decade, coming two days after the end of a five-day strike by junior doctors, which affected over 100,000 appointments, according to the NHS.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association announced last week that junior doctors in England will stage another four-day walkout in August.

In a speech this January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said cutting waiting lists is one of the top five priorities of his government.​​​​​​​

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