THE leader of Scotland’s junior doctors joined English picket lines and delivered a message to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf: “If you don’t want to see this in Scotland meet with us now.”
Chris Smith, chair of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee, was in Newcastle to support English junior doctors in their fight for a fair pay rise and pay restoration after many years of below inflation pay awards.
You are reading: Scots junior doctors warn Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to meet them on pay or prepare for strikes
As Yousaf campaigns to become the next First Minister of Scotland he could have an even bigger fight on his hands with junior doctors gearing up for strike action.
Speaking from the picket line Smith warned: “My message to Humza Yousaf could not be made any clearer – if you want to avert a strike of junior doctors in Scotland’s NHS come to the table and negotiate with us to get full pay restoration otherwise this is what you can look forward to on your watch in Scotland.”
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He continued: “It is an amazing turnout down here with doctors standing up to be counted on pay restoration.
“Our ballot opens on March 29 and this is an indication of what will happen if Humza Yousaf doesn’t come to the table and negotiate with us.
“The sentiment in Scotland is exactly the same as it is down here in England and we have been left wth no choice but to ballot for strike action.”
And in a direct message to Yousaf and the Scottish Government Smith said: “People are turning out in their thousands to demand a pay rise for the value of work we do so reverse the pay erosion of 23.5 per cent we have had since 2008.
“Scottish Junior Doctors across the country have said they want to show their solidarity with the English juniors.
“The sentiment in Scotland is exactly the same as it is in England and we are all clear that pay restoration is a cause that unites us across our borders in the UK.”
Even though they take life or death decisions every day, some new medics are paid just over £27,500 a year – which works out at £14 an hour, the same as some coffee shop staff.
Smith said: “Years of below-inflation pay ‘uplifts’ coupled with rising costs of living have left junior doctors feeling under appreciated, undervalued and demoralised.”
They were offered a 4.5 per cent pay rise in the most recent talks but Smith claims that is not enough and was the equivalet of an eight per cent pay cut because of rampant inflation.
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The doctors are looking for a rise over five years of about 30 per cent, which would restore the pay deficit.
Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie commented: “This is a stark warning from junior doctors who are at the end of their tether.
“Almost half are contemplating leaving the NHS and this tone deaf health secretary needs to get round the table to negotiate with them immediately too avert a further crisis in the NHS.
“The health secretary who has failed junior doctors is now looking to fail upwards by becoming our next First Minister.
“He is not fit to hold that office.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he recognised the work of junior doctors and the important contribution they make to the NHS but he said he was disappointed BMA Scotland is planning to ballot junior doctors on industrial action.
He said this would be “ in no one’s interests”.
Yousaf added: “As I made clear, their demands for an above retail price index pay increase, plus an additional ask of 23.5 per cent – meaning a pay raise of more than 35 per cent – remains unaffordable.
“Dr Smith is aware that I have written to the independent Doctors and Dentist Review Bodies and asked them to consider a separate and specific recommendation for junior doctor pay in 2023.
“Dr Iain Kennedy, the Chair of BMA Scotland, has written to me to confirm they remain within the DDRB process. It is only right that we allow the DDRB process to conclude and for their recommendations to be considered.
“I have been clear I look forward to further discussion with the BMA on this issue and have offered to meet with them.”