CLEARING the NHS backlog is "completely unrealistic" without solving issues around pay and pension taxes which are driving doctors to quit the health service early, the newly-elected chair of the BMA in Scotland has said.

Dr Iain Kennedy, who will be formally appointed on August 30, said staff retention is a "huge fear" for doctors, with poor pay driving some junior medics to leave the NHS within one or two years of qualifying.

He added that it was "unforgivable" that some senior clinicians are continuing to have to retire early or cut their hours in order to avoid punitive tax bills running into ten of thousands annually.

READ MORE: Face-to-face GP appointments should be rationed for good to cope with demand, says medic

It comes as BMA Scotland prepares to publish the results tomorrow of its consultation with members on what action they want to take in response to the Scottish Government's 4.5 per cent pay award, which was branded "hugely disappointing" by the trade union's current leader, Dr Lewis Morrison.

It could pave the way to doctors in Scotland being balloted for the first time on mass walkouts over pay.

Nurses, midwives and other healthcare staff, including physiotherapists, are already being balloted on strike action over their 5% pay offer in what could potentially lead to the biggest wave of industrial action ever to hit the NHS in Scotland.

Dr Kennedy, a GP based in Inverness and medical director for the Highland Local Medical Committee (LMC), said: "The health and care system is precarious at the moment, there's no doubt about that.

"During my election campaign I was speaking to quite a lot of members, and a number of clear issues are coming across.

"Doctors fell undervalued, and they're feeling very dissatisfied across five key areas: pay, working conditions, pension taxes, workforce and workload.

"Workforce and workload are inextricably linked to pay.

"We've got huge problems with workforce and workload, and a huge backlog.

"The belief that the profession is ready to clear that backlog right now is completely unrealistic until we address the crises around workload, pensions, pay, working conditions."

READ MORE: Scotland's nurses could strike for first time in history of NHS 

In England, the BMA has said junior doctors will strike in protest at a 2% pay award unless the UK Government agrees to full "pay restoration" - bringing wages back up to 2008 levels.

Junior doctors in Scotland, who are on a separate contract, have been awarded 4.5%.

"The strength of feeling does seem to be a lot stronger in England, but it'll be interesting to see how members in Scotland respond," said Dr Kennedy.

"Certainly there is a lot of anger around pay - particularly across junior doctors in the UK - and that is something that needs to be urgently addressed.

"At this stage we do not know exactly what Scotland is saying.

"I hear stories of junior doctors choosing to leave the profession one or two years out [of training] and that's largely due to pay and working conditions.

"We need to start valuing the medical profession in Scotland far better than we have been over the past 10-15 years.

"If there's a time to act, it's now, because quite frankly the public in Scotland will soon no longer have an NHS if we don't address these issues."

READ MORE: 'Culture of bullying' at NHS Highland must change, say medics 

Dr Kennedy, who was among the whistleblowers to expose a bullying problem at NHS Highland in a letter to the Herald in 2018, said it remained an "ongoing issue" in the health service.

He said: "We do still hear of BMA members being bullied. In terms of pressure, the risks of ongoing bullying in the NHS are extremely high and we need to be vigilant.

"It is something that I know members will be expecting me to advocate for them on."