A senior doctor at Bronglais Hospital has revealed staff morale is at an ‘all-time low’ as doctors in Wales are set to vote on whether to strike for the first time.

Senior A&E doctor Bridget Cavanna has worked at the hospital for 10 years and she spoke to the Cambrian News on the nurses’ picket line last week.

Nurses and ambulance workers have been on strike across Wales in the last fortnight – with doctors and midwives widely expected to join them in the new year.

Almost two thirds of hospital doctors surveyed by the British Medical Association Cymru indicated they would be willing to take industrial action over their pay and conditions.

The survey - which ran for the first two weeks in December - featured responses from doctors working in every health board in Wales. The questions were designed to gauge members’ views on the latest below inflation (4.5 per cent) pay award from Welsh Government.

But Dr Cavanna told the Cambrian News that what Aberystwyth really needs is a ‘community of medical people who live and work’ in the town – and improved pay and working conditions for all staff.

She said: “I’m out supporting the nurses because they’re an absolutely integral part of our team.

“They’re so demoralised at having to work unsafely. There's not enough of them, they don’t have the resources and they’re not getting paid fairly.

“And without them we (doctors) can’t do a good job. Staff morale is at an all-time low.

“It’s really, really important to show our support as a team

“The NHS is going under and we need a little bit more government support in order to provide the good social care that our country deserves

“All staff are supportive (of the nurses) – all the people I’ve spoken to anyway.”

Asked whether the nurses’ demands being met would improve doctors' jobs, she said: “It would make an enormous difference – but it will take years to turn things around.

“We need to get young nurses to go into nursing - locals who set up their families here.

“If that happens the whole community will thrive, not only the NHS

“But we need a community of medical people who live here and work here. And that will build confidence.”

The BMA’s chair of Welsh Council Dr Iona Collins said: “This survey result is upsetting to all, including the doctors who took part. It's gut-wrenching for doctors to consider walking away from work, when doctors know that they are so desperately needed in the workplace.

“Doctors have been quietly quitting the NHS for years, by reducing their contracted hours or leaving altogether. The financial incentive to remain in the NHS has eroded over the last decade. Furthermore, a change in NHS pension taxation has seen senior doctors who have worked overtime in good faith punished for propping up the NHS by paying more than the overtime pay back as pension tax.

“No other healthcare system devalues their doctors like this, so there is little wonder that so many doctors leave the NHS to work elsewhere.

“Patient waiting lists are at record high levels and the NHS workforce predicament is affecting healthcare colleagues across the board. Without action now, patients will continue to suffer as a direct consequence of an under-funded NHS with insufficient direct clinical care.

“On that basis we hope the Welsh Government will now finally wake up to the crisis in the medical workforce and take serious action, starting with better pay awards as part of an urgently required plan to address years of pay erosion."

On next steps, Dr Collins said: “I have written to the Minister for Health and Social Services to inform her of the results of this survey and to seek an urgent meeting to discuss the need for immediate action.

“Members on our branch of practice committees will now discuss the survey results and decide the next steps.”

Ambulance response times in the Welsh NHS are the slowest on record for the fourth month running, while those experiencing the longest treatment waits still number over 50,000 - and the nation still has the worst A&E waits in Britain.

The Welsh Conservatives have described the NHS in the nation as being in ‘turmoil’ and have curiously spoken out in support of striking health workers in a press release. This is a bizarre divergence from the national party – which has been critical of striking staff and the resulting effects on patient treatment.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We understand the strength of feeling among doctors about the pay offer and the pressures all public sector workers are under due to the cost-of-living crisis.

“We will continue to work to bring together trade unions, employers and government to deliver the best possible outcomes for workers, while continuing to call on the UK Government to use the funding it has to provide a fair pay offer to NHS staff and enable us to do the same in Wales.”

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Safe staffing levels and the health and wellbeing of all our members of staff, students and volunteers working within Hywel Dda University Health Board, matters greatly to us as an organisation.

"We continue to face significant challenges in recruiting into nursing, medical and other clinical roles in Hywel Dda UHB and whilst we have seen success in our efforts in this area, challenges remain.

“The shortage in many areas of the clinical workforce remains a UK-wide challenge, and the health board continues to deliver ongoing recruitment campaigns and explore new ways of working.

"With the current pressures across all of our services, we remind staff about the importance of their own health and self-care and how they can access support and raise any concerns they may have.”