Junior doctors in Scotland will be offered the "biggest ever pay uplift" in an effort to avert strikes later this month, the First Minister has said.
The Scottish Government recently confirmed that senior NHS staff will be given a 6% pay increase following negotiations with the Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body.
The uplift is being hailed by Humza Yousaf as the biggest since devolution, as he promised an offer for junior staff that could amount to "thousands of pounds".
The British Medical Association (BMA) previously announced junior doctors would walk out between 12-15 July after rejecting a 14.5% increase over 2 years. The offer was initially described as the "best and final" deal from the Scottish Government, but as Mr Yousaf marked the 75th anniversary of the NHS during a visit to Forth Valley Hospital in Larbert, near Falkirk, the First Minister said he planned to meet with the BMA on Tuesday (4 July) to discuss a new offer.
He said: "I'm prepared to offer junior doctors the biggest ever uplift seen in the history of devolution, and if accepted, it would put thousands of pounds into the pockets of our junior doctors and they will be worth every single penny."
Mr Yousaf said the plans would only be discussed with junior doctors but said methods could include going above and beyond a 1-year pay rise, or reforming contracts and working conditions.
Future Strikes Could Lead to 'Tens of Thousands' of Procedures Cancelled
The news comes after Mr Yousaf chaired a resilience meeting with senior ministers and health bosses to plan contingencies in the event of the expected strikes. He told journalists the walkouts could be "hugely significant", resulting in "potentially tens of thousands of patients being affected and having their procedures cancelled".
Asked by the PA news agency if he was confident that junior doctors would accept an improved offer, he said: "I think it’s 50/50, if I'm being honest.
"I don’t think it’s a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. I think it's going to be a challenging negotiation given where we know the BMA are and what we're able to afford.
"But I do believe the BMA, absolutely, when they say they want to do everything they can to avoid industrial action."
Following the resilience meeting, Dr Chris Smith, chair of the BMA's Scottish junior doctors committee, said: "Junior doctors in Scotland have consistently and strongly made clear that the pay offers made so far by the Scottish Government are not yet sufficient to demonstrate a commitment to reverse the years of pay erosion we have suffered, which has seen pay reduced by 28.5% since 2008.
"No-one can seriously argue a junior doctor today is worth that much less than a counterpart 15 years ago. Indeed, our members rejected the Scottish Government’s latest offer decisively.
"Unless we act now and invest in the future of the workforce, we will go on losing doctors to places they are valued properly, compromising the care we can provide to the people of Scotland now and in the future."
Scotland's NHS 'Already at Breaking Point'
Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: "Scotland’s health service is already at breaking point due to years of SNP mismanagement, so patients will be alarmed at the thought of these damaging strikes going ahead.
"Humza Yousaf must do everything in his power to halt them by reaching a deal with shattered junior doctors – who are paying for the SNP's dire workforce. It must address not just pay, but the poor working conditions junior doctors face every day."
The previously announced pay deal for senior NHS staff, which will be backdated to April 1 2023, will see a consultant at the bottom of the pay scale see a rise of £5,488, and £7,292 for those at the top. It builds on the 4.5% pay uplift awarded in 2022, taking the total increase to 10.5% in 2 years.