Hundreds of doctors in Wales are now more likely to leave the Welsh NHS as a result of a “disappointing” pay deal announced last month, the British Medical Association has warned.

More than a third of the 1,397 doctors who responded to the BMA Cymru survey said they are angry over the Welsh Government’s offer of a 4.5% wage increase.

Some 79% of them said the below inflation pay rise, which will apply to consultants, junior doctors and GPs, had further decreased morale.

Three times as many members responded to their survey compared with last year, which the BMA said shows the strength of feeling within the profession.

Over half of those – more than 700 doctors – said the latest pay decision meant they were more likely to leave the health service.

There were stark warnings from respondents that the NHS is “close to collapse”, with many saying they feel exhausted and burnt out, the trade union revealed.

They also said it was impossible to provide excellent care due to lack of staff, and many raised concerns about patient safety.

BMA Cymru Wales Chair Dr Iona Collins said doctors are at risk of leaving the profession over the pay deal. (Matthew Horwood/BMA Cymru)BMA Cymru Wales chair Dr Iona Collins said doctors are at risk of leaving the profession over the pay deal (Matthew Horwood/BMA Cymru)

One member called the situation “terrifying”, the BMA said.

Dr Iona Collins, the BMA’s Welsh council chair, said doctors’ working conditions and pay “keep challenging their decision to remain employed by the NHS”.

“Doctors’ take-home pay has reduced over several years, making the NHS an increasingly unattractive employer,” she said.

“It’s not difficult to understand why so many senior doctors are retiring early and younger doctors are moving abroad or finding alternative careers.

“This situation has got so bad that last year 52% of NHS consultant physician posts in England and Wales remained vacant.”

Ms Collins said doctors are also facing complex pension tax bills which result in some essentially working for free, leading to doctors being unable to increase their usual working hours, meaning there is less chance in reducing waiting lists.

“We are running out of time,” she added.

“Crisis after crisis in our NHS is making headline news, with the two root causes relating to medical staffing and medical resources.

“Covid has accelerated a problem which has been evolving for years and there is no point having Covid recovery plans when there is not enough medical staff to deliver the existing services, let alone trying to increase the services available.”

Health minister Eluned Morgan said she was acting on the recommendation of the NHS Pay Review Body and that it would be on top of the real living wage top-up which came into effect in April.

For the lowest-paid staff, in bands one to four, it equates to, on average, a 7.5% pay rise, which still falls well below inflation, which is expected to hit 11% by the autumn and continue to soar into next year.

BMA Cymru Wales said it will meet Ms Morgan next month to discuss the immediate need for action.

Other unions representing workers in the health sector have reacted angrily and threatened strike action, with the Royal College of Nursing Wales (RCN Cymru) moving directly to ballot for industrial action.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “In announcing our pay award for the NHS workforce in Wales, we made clear that without additional funding from the UK Government, there are limits to how far we can go to address these concerns in Wales.

“We continue to press the UK Government to provide additional funding necessary for fair pay rises for public-sector workers.”