JUNIOR doctors have begun another round of strike action after accusing the Welsh Government of “empty promises” over pay.

It comes just a month after the last walkout from hospitals and GP surgeries across Wales.

The British Medical Association (BMA) expects more than 3,000 staff to withdraw their labour over the 72-hour period which ends on Saturday morning, February 24.

Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu, co-chair of the BMA Cymru Wales junior doctors committee, stood on the picket line outside University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

First-year doctors are currently earning £13.65 an hour - which the BMA says less in real terms than what they were getting 15 years ago. Dr Babs-Osibodu has accused the Welsh Government of “deliberate pay erosion”.

South Wales Argus: Dr Babs-Osibodu has accused the Welsh Government of 'deliberate pay erosion'Dr Babs-Osibodu has accused the Welsh Government of 'deliberate pay erosion' (Image: PA)

He said: “We’re always talking to the Welsh Government and we’ve been talking to them for a long, long time. Unfortunately, all we’re getting is excuses and empty promises."

Health minister Eluned Morgan says the government’s offer of a five per cent pay rise is “at the limits” of their available finances.

‘Under pressure’

Dr Emily Sams, deputy chair of the Welsh junior doctor’s committee, said the strike outside the Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa was “15 years in the making”.

“The point the Welsh NHS is at, I think, is partly due to the fact there’s either not been the right investment or not the right investment in the right areas, but that’s really for politicians to decide,” she said.

“But now we’re saying enough is enough. We can’t have our pay eroded any further. The pay offer they came to us with in the summer was a further pay cut in real terms and we just can’t keep this cycle going.

“We’ve got better pay offers in England and Scotland. Doctors don’t have to go to Australia now for a better working life. They can go across the border for better pay and conditions.

South Wales Argus: 'Now we're saying enough is enough': Junior doctors Emily Sams (L) and Jake Malone (R)'Now we're saying enough is enough': Junior doctors Emily Sams (L) and Jake Malone (R) (Image: Sam Portillo)

“Junior doctors see sick patients overnight and decide whether they need to be escalated to a senior doctor or whether they can manage them on their own at that point. There’s a big mismatch between the level of responsibility, and skill, and what we’re paid.”

Junior doctor Jake Malone works at the Grange emergency department, where he accepts patients are facing stressful and painful waits to be seen.

“Most people who work there are in that on a near-daily basis,” he said. “Your perception of what’s normal begins to shift, but what’s normal isn’t necessarily right.

“I think we’ve become quite aware there are patients who experience extremely long waits. There are patients who are not receiving the care you’d perhaps wish upon your relatives.

“It feels frustrating when you can’t provide the care you feel you should be able to. Half of your battle is just trying to find space to see a patient, or having to balance the risk of who is more serious, rather than actually doing what’s best for each of those individuals.”

South Wales Argus: Junior doctors have been on the frontline of increasing pressures at the GrangeJunior doctors have been on the frontline of increasing pressures at the Grange (Image: Sam Portillo)


Junior doctors are supposed to work an average of 48 hours per week but inevitably work outside their contracted shifts. Dr Malone suggests that, while the strike action is “about pay restoration”, other pressures at the hospital have pushed staff to the picket line.

“Would the feeling amongst staff be different if they felt they were able to do a good job each day? If you didn’t feel under pressure, if you didn’t feel exhausted by the rota, if you didn’t feel like you weren’t able to plan things after work because you can’t guarantee leaving on time, if you didn’t feel like you hadn’t had a break because of the short staffing or because of the constant hectic nature of the department.

“And you’re aware the people you’re seeing are only the tip of the iceberg of what’s still out in the waiting room.”