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Health minister updates Senedd on junior doctors’ strike

Settling the junior doctors’ strike as soon as possible is in everyone’s best interests as the NHS grapples with extreme winter pressures, Wales’ health minister said.

Eluned Morgan told the Senedd that the Welsh Government expected a significant impact from this week’s three-day junior doctor strike, which concluded on Wednesday.

She said 6,500 outpatient appointments and 400 operations were cancelled on Tuesday as she assured patients they will not be sent to the back of the queue by health boards.

While acknowledging the strength of feeling among junior doctors, Baroness Morgan said it has been impossible for the Welsh Government to offer more than a 5% pay rise.

She said: “5% has been in their pay packets since September and it’s the same offer as to everyone else in the health service.”

Baroness Morgan recognised it is less than the 6% offered to junior doctors in England.

However, she pointed out that a 6% increase was awarded to junior doctors in Wales last year – plus a one-off 1.5% payment – compared with 2% across the border.

She said: “While we are keen to move to pay restoration for junior doctors, this year, with the extreme financial pressure on our budgets, it has not been possible to offer more than 5%.

“Health boards have worked hard to protect patient safety and ensure emergency and urgent care is protected. However, we know that planned care is going to be very disrupted.”


Russell George, the Conservatives’ shadow health minister, said there was a feeling of despair among the 450 junior doctors demonstrating outside the Senedd.

He expressed disappointment that the Welsh Government was not able to offer at least the 6% recommended by an independent review body.

Mr George said the chances of further strikes are extremely high unless there is a resolution.

During a statement on winter pressures on Tuesday January 16, Baroness Morgan pointed to a “massive deterioration” in terms of the real-terms funding received from Westminster.

She was keen to keep talking to the British Medical Association (BMA) – not only in relation to junior doctors but also consultants and specialist doctors, who will be going out to ballot soon.

The health minister said: “I do think we probably need to negotiate a new contract, and that’s something that I hope we will be able to put on the table in future.”


Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister, said junior doctors’ warnings about the state of the workforce and the link to winter pressures have fallen on deaf ears for years.

He said: “The fact this last resort of strike action was supported by an overwhelming majority demonstrates the extent to which members feel undervalued and underappreciated.”

Baroness Morgan stressed that Welsh ministers understand junior doctors’ frustrations as she challenged opposition MSs to set out what they would cut to find the additional money.

She told the chamber: “The only other place for that to come from now is from the health budget itself, and I’m genuinely not sure if we would be thanked by the public, nor indeed by the BMA, if we started cutting other parts of the health budget.

“I met with the BMA last Thursday. I’m always open to meet them to see if we can get to a better position. Clearly it’s in all of our interests to try to settle the strike as soon as we can.”

‘Smoke and mirrors’

Jenny Rathbone, a Labour backbencher, who represents Cardiff Central, asked about consequential funding flowing from the offer to junior NHS doctors in England.

Baroness Morgan said ministers have been pressing the UK Government but have not yet received clarity, warning of smoke and mirrors in relation to how health is funded in England.

Andrew RT Davies pointed out that other parts of the UK have been able to deliver the independent pay review’s settlement and asked how much an extra 1% would cost.

Baroness Morgan suggested an additional 1% would be unlikely to settle the strike, warning that it would “open the doors for other people”.

She said: “Part of the problem we have is that everybody else across the Welsh NHS … has accepted that 5% offer.

“Now, if you start saying, ‘No, but we’re going to give those a bit more’, you can be damn sure that other parts of the NHS will say, ‘What about us? Are we not as worthy?’.”

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Health minister updates Senedd on junior doctors’ strike

Dr Hannah Wise
Dr Hannah Wise outside the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport on the third and final day of industrial action