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Now Scottish doctors threaten to strike over NHS pay row

Now Scottish doctors threaten to strike over NHS pay row: 80% say they are prepared to take industrial action unless 4.5% offer is upped

  • British Medical Association polled 3,100 doctors between July 20 and August 5
  • Some 78 per cent said they would be willing to take part in strike action over pay 
  • BMA Scotland chairman Lewis Morrison says it shows ‘dissatisfaction’ of staff

More than three quarters of Scottish doctors now want to strike, a survey has revealed after unions started balloting NHS workers in England and Wales.

The British Medical Association polled 3,100 doctors between July 20 and August 5 in Scotland after they rejected the Government’s 4.5 per cent pay rise offer. 

Some 78 per cent said they would be willing to take part in strike action for a better pay award and more than half 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.

He said doctors are struggling to care for patients ‘in an NHS that is basically collapsing around them’.

It comes after Unite started to ballot its 100,000 health and social care workers in England and Wales on strike action last week.

The Royal College of Nursing has also started asking its 465,000 members if they want to strike.

And the head of the BMA across the UK, which represents 160,000 doctors, claimed industrial action is ‘inevitable’.

More than three quarters of Scottish doctors now want to strike, a survey has revealed after unions started balloting NHS workers in England and Wales. Pictured: Junior Doctors march from the the Department of Health and Social Care to Downing street on July 25 in London

Around 100,000 NHS workers in England and Wales are being balloted to see if they want to strike over pay this winter.

Unite has started to ballot its health service members to vote for industrial action over the Government’s ‘miserable’ salary offer announced last month.

The union said the 4 per cent increase for staff in middle pay bands is a ‘massive pay cut’ because of soaring inflation — which is forecast to hit 13 per cent later this year.

It will consult its NHS members, including nursing assistants and hospital cleaners, on whether they accept the ‘imposed deal’ or want to challenge it with.

Union bosses claim they will back the members ‘whatever they decide’, setting them up for strikes as the health service comes under pressure this winter. 

The move comes after the Royal College of Nursing also started asking its 465,000 members if they want to strike over the pay increase.

And the British Medical Association, which represents 160,000 doctors, claimed industrial action is ‘inevitable’.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘This offer is nothing other than a massive national pay cut for NHS staff.

‘After everything they have been through with the Covid pandemic and the service this workforce gives this country day in, day out, this is a kick in the teeth from the Government and an insult to staff and patients alike.

‘This ballot is a chance for our members to have their say, and, whatever they decide, they will have the full backing of their union, Unite.’

The Unite ballot closes on September 11 in England and September 15 in Wales.

The BMA survey found 90 per cent of Scottish doctors said the pay increase offer was too low.

Around 88 per cent said they feel their contribution to the NHS was not reflected in the offer and 58 per cent said they are more likely to leave the health service.

Dr Morrison said: ‘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’.

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.’

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf 

He said: ‘The annual pay uplift of 4.5 per cent for NHS medical staff is the largest since devolution and followed recommendations by the independent Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body.

‘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 per cent uplift that was recommended and applied by the Scottish Government in 2021. 

Unite is recommending its health service members vote for industrial action over the Government’s ‘miserable’ pay offer last month. Pictured: Unite general secretary Sharon Graham

Nurses will start voting next month on whether to strike over pay in what is being described as a ‘defining moment’ for the profession

‘This means staff have been awarded a 7.5 per cent pay increase over the last two years. 

‘This award will see a senior consultant receive an uplift of more than £5,000 this year.’

He said senior doctors’ pay ‘will have risen by over £8,500 in the past two years’ taken alongside last year’s 3 per cent rise.

Mr Yousaf said: ‘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.’

It comes after Unite started to ballot its health service members to vote for industrial action over the Government’s ‘miserable’ salary offer announced last month.

The union said the 4 per cent increase for staff in middle pay bands is a ‘massive pay cut’ because of soaring inflation — which is forecast to hit 13 per cent later this year.

It will consult its NHS members, including nursing assistants and hospital cleaners, on whether they accept the ‘imposed deal’ or want to challenge it with.

Union bosses claim they will back the members ‘whatever they decide’, setting them up for strikes as the health service comes under pressure this winter. 

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