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Mixed progress for doctors

  11 August: striking doctors picketing outside Whipps Cross University Hospital, London. Photo Workers

Junior doctors in Scotland have voted overwhelmingly to accept a pay offer. In a ballot nearly 82 per cent voted for the deal on a 71 per cent turn-out. 

The offer gives an increase of 12.4 per cent backdated to April of this year. There is also a commitment for negotiations in the following three years to make “credible progress” towards pay restoration to 2008 levels. That’s the demand of the junior doctors’ campaign throughout Britain. 

The deal also removes junior doctors in Scotland from the Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body, and includes measures to improve working and training conditions. That looks an important step. Nurses and other NHS staff in England are seeking to move away from pay review bodies.

In Wales, hospital doctors of all grades are to be balloted on industrial action. The devolved administration in Wales made the lowest offer anywhere in the UK – 5 per cent for 2023-24.

New ballot

In England, junior doctors concluded their fifth round of strikes in mid-August. They are re-balloting for a mandate for further action. Separately, hospital consultants are holding their third round of strikes on 24 and 25 August.

The government position, for public consumption at least, is that there will be no further talks while industrial action continues. But it seems likely there are informal contacts between government and the unions – the BMA and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association. 

In the course of pay struggles by other health workers this year, it became clear that workers are up against the state. Pay review bodies are discredited and despised, and those workers who have secured victories have done so through strong local organisation, clarity about the importance of maintaining national negotiating structures, and tactical inventiveness. Junior doctors and consultants will need the same to make progress towards pay restoration.