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HCSA announces first ever Northern Ireland strike ballot

HCSA - the hospital doctors’ union has today announced plans for its first ever ballot of consultant and SAS grade members in Northern Ireland on strike action over pay.

The union’s ruling Council voted overwhelmingly to move to a formal ballot after an indicative vote showed strong support against a backdrop of years of real-terms pay cuts, staffing shortages and rock-bottom morale.

Senior doctors in HCSA will be asked whether they agree to strike action and action short of strike when the vote opens on June 19th.

The union represents around 10 percent of consultants in Belfast and 5 percent across Northern Ireland as a whole.

Consultant pay has lagged far behind that of neighbouring jurisdictions, currently standing around £10,000 per year lower than in England, Scotland and Wales and around half the rate of the Republic of Ireland.

HCSA warned this is having a disastrous impact on recruitment and retention, leaving hospitals short of hundreds of doctors and risking patient care.

It is urging a pay settlement that maintains Northern Ireland’s ability to attract and keep vitally needed medical staff.

Commenting, HCSA Executive Committee member for Northern Ireland Dr Mark Worthington said:

“This is an unprecedented decision by our union and underlines the strength of feeling among our most experienced doctors after years with no meaningful action by successive administrations and political impasse.

“Consultants and SAS doctors are saying enough is enough: you can’t keep ignoring the issue of pay parity if you want to establish any kind of stability in the health service.

“Senior doctors see daily the impact of failing to address this fundamental threat to medical staffing, having to cover vacancies as colleagues depart the service due to these huge disparities in pay. The end result is that patients suffer. We need politicians to wake up to the grave crisis our hospitals face.

“It was not an easy decision to move to a strike ballot for the first time in our history. But when warning after warning and the facts on the ground are ignored, this feels like the only option we had left.”

Notes to editors

  • Founded in 1948, HCSA - the hospital doctors’ union represents all grades of hospital doctors in Northern Ireland
  • Senior doctor members in Northern Ireland voted 83 percent for strike action and 94 percent for action short of a strike in an indicative vote, on a 62 percent turnout
  • The formal ballot will open on June 19th and run until 17th July
  • HCSA membership in Northern Ireland is focused predominantly in Belfast, where its members represent around 10 percent of consultants. Around one in 20 consultants across Northern Ireland are HCSA members.

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Information for members

The ballot will be open from 19th June until 17th July and will be administered by post. Members are being asked to ensure their details held by HCSA are up to date so that they are able to participate in the ballot.

For further details and guidance, please contact