JUNIOR doctors in England started a six-day strike on Wednesday – the longest in the history of the NHS.

The industrial action will last from 7am on January 3 to 7am on January 9 and health service executives have said the strike could mean “one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced”.

Thankfully, given Scotland is in charge of its own affairs when it comes to the NHS, this major disturbance will not be happening north of the Border.

Why is the strike not happening in Scotland?

This is because an agreement was reached last August for a 17.5% pay increase over two years for junior doctors.

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The deal reached in Scotland was for a 12.4% pay rise for junior doctors in training for 2023/24 together. Following the 4.5% uplift for 2022/23, that equates to a total increase of 17.5%.

It means a doctor at the beginning of their career in Scotland will receive a basic salary increase of £3429 in 2023/24. Those at the end of their training will see a rise of £7111. 

Almost 82% of British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctor members voting in Scotland voted in favour of the offer in Scotland.

Under the NHS system, a junior doctor is any medical school graduate with between one and nine years' experience.

They can be either members of the BMA or the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union.

The Scottish Government also committed in its offer to “make credible progress” in real terms towards full pay restoration to 2008 levels. Inflation will be guaranteed as the floor for each round of ongoing negotiation on pay.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said on Wednesday: “Six days of junior doctor strikes in England, all because of a UK Government that chooses tax cuts for the wealthy over paying NHS staff fairly.

“We have taken different choices in Scotland and avoided a single day of NHS strikes. Our budget gives the NHS a real-terms increase.”

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Dr Chris Smith said in the wake of the offer last year that it represented an “unprecedented shift” from the Scottish Government that recognised the “huge decline” in real terms pay doctors had experienced.

What do junior doctors in England want?

The BMA in England said it was forced to take action and reject the UK Government’s December pay offer as it failed to compensate for real-terms pay cuts going back as far as 2008.

The UK Government gave junior doctors an 8.8% pay rise last summer, with an extra 3% offered during the last round of negotiations, but this does not go far enough for the BMA.

The BMA is also calling for a new pay mechanism to prevent any future decreases against inflation and the cost of living and a reformed Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body for independent and fair pay recommendations for staff to “safeguard recruitment and retention of junior doctors”.

The BMA claims junior doctors in England were subjected to a 26.1% real terms pay cut between 2008 and 2022.