Wales's junior doctors, who were this week taking part in a 72-hour walkout, have for more than a year shown enormous restraint.

They are underpaid, overworked and worn out. They say that, because of sub-inflationary pay increases, it is now less attractive to work and train in Wales and more are leaving to work in other countries.

Students are leaving medical school before finishing their training, or deciding not to study medicine at all. The recruitment crisis facing the NHS risks undermining the efficient working of the health service in Wales, and this predicament will worsen if governments continue to fail to take seriously the scourge of low pay for doctors and nurses.

At the same time, there needs to be a clear realisation that the more medics who quit, or move abroad to better paid jobs, the more difficult it will inevitably become to ensure a sufficient succession of consultant-level doctors.

The facts on junior doctor pay in Wales are stark - and sobering. Recommendations by the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, which advises the Cardiff government, in conjunction with recent modest salary awards, have landed junior doctors here with a real terms pay cut of 29.6 per cent since 2008, compared with inflation as calculated under the Retail Price Index, which includes housing costs.

But that loss is compounded by the fact that minimum pay for junior doctors in Wales is in any case nearly £2,700 less than received by those in England and Scotland, and dramatically less than elsewhere in Europe. A snapshot comparison: starting pay in Wales is now about £32,000, whereas Ireland pays its junior doctors a minimum of £54,547; Greece, £58,788; Italy, £78,710; Spain, £65,315; Switzerland, £85,169.

Mark Drakeford has stressed that, in the current budgetary crisis, health spending will be a priority. There can be no doubt that that process must start with pay justice for junior doctors.