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Calls for fresh talks as consultants in England reject Government pay offer

26th January 2024

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling on the Government to discuss making improvements to its latest pay offer after consultants narrowly voted against it.

BMA consultant members in England voted 51.1% against the offer in a referendum held from 14 December to 23 January.

Some 23,544 consultants cast their vote – a turnout of 64.8% – of whom 12,037 voted against and 11,507 (48.9%) for the offer.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said: ‘The vote has shown that consultants do not feel the current offer goes far enough to end the current dispute and offer a long-term solution to the recruitment and retention crisis for senior doctors.

‘It backs up conversations we’ve had with colleagues in recent weeks, who felt the changes were insufficient and did not give them confidence that pay erosion would be addressed over the coming years.

‘In addition, they were concerned about the fairness of the offer and how it impacted different groups of doctors. There were also clear concerns about changes to professional development time, and time dedicated to teaching and research.’

With such a slim margin, the BMA has announced it will not immediately resume strike action, instead giving the Government time to improve the offer.

Consultants in England have a mandate to take industrial action until 18 June 2024.

Dr Sharma said: ‘In the coming days we will be further engaging with consultants, and seeking talks with Government to explore whether the concerns expressed by our members during the referendum process can be addressed.’

Responding to the consultants’ vote, health secretary Victoria Atkins said: ‘I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and I am disappointed that after weeks of constructive negotiations the BMA has, by the narrowest of margins, rejected this fair and reasonable offer.

‘I want to build on our progress on waiting lists and for us all to be able to focus our efforts on offering patients the highest quality care. The Government is therefore carefully considering next steps.’

Earlier in January, some 58% of consultant members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) voted against the pay offer.

HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan also called on the Government to return to the negotiating table after the offer was rejected ‘on a number of points’, including further erosion of Supporting Professional Activities (SPA) time and the overall level of investment and unevenness of the award across the pay scale.

Dr Narayanan said: ‘We have listened to our members and the prospect of changes to SPA time in this offer rang clear alarm bells. They are deeply concerned that the time they need to develop their skills and impart knowledge to trainees has already been eroded beyond a sustainable level. They know first-hand the constant pressure they face from managers to reduce it still further.’

Targeting the suggested investment at specific pay points means ‘many consultants would have missed out on an uplift this year’, he said.

Dr Narayanan added: ‘The Government needs to revisit the investment it is willing to make in our most experienced doctors. This result is a wake-up call. We have observed the Prime Minister’s repeated suggestion that the senior doctors’ pay dispute had been resolved, but the result … shows there is no room for complacency given low morale and years of underinvestment in staffing.

‘We are confident that with a positive approach to further negotiations it is still possible to strike a deal which a majority of consultants will be willing to accept.’

BMA Cymru Wales’ consultants are also being balloted for strike action over the six weeks to 4 March 2024.

The rejection of the Government’s offer by BMA consultant members in England comes as the union’s junior doctors committee in England announced it is to reballot its members for another six months of industrial action.

The current mandate expires at the end of February and the new ballot will run from 7 February to 20 March 2024.

If returned with a ‘yes’ vote, the mandate for strike action in England would be extended to September 2024.

The new ballot will also include approval of Action Short of a Strike (ASOS), which encompasses any other industrial action taken in order to put pressure on the employer in a trade dispute, such as refusing to work overtime, but which does not amount to full walkouts.

In December, HCSA junior doctors in England voted by over 96% in favour of continued strike action over pay until at least June.

Flexible working for retired consultants made possible with new NHS Emeritus pilot scheme

16th January 2024

A new platform allowing recently retired consultants who still hold a license to return to the NHS in a more flexible capacity has been launched by NHS England as part of a range of measures to bring down the elective care backlog.

The NHS Emeritus pilot scheme will run for a year across England and it is expected Emeritus consultants will be able to start carrying out appointments from February 2023.

This will follow a full registration process, which includes pre-employment checks and face-to-face interviews with NHS Professionals.

Once registered, a cloud-based platform will link Emeritus consultants with secondary care providers who upload the activity they would like supported. This could range from outpatient appointments, specialist advice requests and education and training support.

The Emeritus consultants can then express their interest in undertaking the specific work listed, and providers will choose the consultant whose skillset and availability best matches the appointments they need covered.

Appointments would be scheduled and arranged with patients in the normal way and carried out in-person or remotely, if clinically appropriate.

This means Emeritus consultants could be based anywhere in England and support hospitals in areas with workforces shortages in a particular specialty or a higher demand for services, or more remote areas where travel is difficult for patients.

The platform aims to provide trusts with an alternative to using agency staff, while allowing experienced specialists who are nearing retirement but want to keep working in the NHS longer, or recently-retired consultants who want to re-join, with an easy route back in with more flexibility.

Stella Vig, NHS national clinical director for elective care, said: ‘The NHS prides itself on its hard-working and committed staff, and it is often the most experienced and knowledgeable clinicians who are lost to the NHS once they retire, even though they still have a lot more they can give to benefit patients.

‘Many have said they want to be able to keep giving back to the health service once they have retired, but in a more flexible way – through the NHS Emeritus initiative, we can provide an opportunity for consultants to continue to work in the NHS in a way that fits in with their life and schedule, and ensures the NHS can still benefit from their skills and knowledge, whether that be through providing training and education, or continuing to see patients and help add much-needed capacity as we work toward our aims of bringing down the longest waits for elective care.’

Consultant urologist Simon Williams is currently employed by University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, and going through the final stages of the registration process for the Emeritus scheme ahead of retiring soon.

He said: ‘Having spent 32 years working in the NHS I have built up a wealth of experience and skills. NHS Emeritus is a great way to continue to share that and still see patients, but in a more flexible way.

‘The programme will enable me to help trusts across the country using remote consultations, not just those in my local area, which could really help free up capacity for their consultants to see more patients in-person and help bring down some of the longer waits for routine appointments.’

Dr Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘At a time when the NHS is facing unprecedented demands, paving a way for our recently retired experienced doctors to be able to contribute their skills again as emeritus consultants is a very welcome step forward.

‘As outlined in RCP’s Later Careers Guidance, we know that more than a third of physicians who are not yet retired say they want to retire early, but almost 60% of physicians would delay retirement if they could work flexibly or reduce their hours, highlighting that integrated flexible working would greatly improve retention.

‘We will closely follow the Emeritus pilot and very much hope that it offers a flexible opportunity for experienced physicians to once again provide vital care for their patients while importantly reducing waiting lists.’

If the pilot is successful, the scheme has the potential to be expended to cover other work areas, the NHS said.

Ms Vig added: ‘It’s a simple concept, but one that we hope will benefit everyone taking part – and we envisage that this is just the beginning, with the potential to broaden NHS Emeritus out to a wider cohort and to include different types of work in the future, which could benefit thousands of patients across the country.’

The new tool is one initiative being rolled out to help deliver the NHS Elective Recovery Plan and to cut the longest waits for routine care.

Recent research has suggested that the NHS must treat 10% more non-urgent hospital cases a month to reverse the increasing waiting list for elective care.

Consultant pay reform package agreed in principle with UK Government

27th November 2023

The UK Government, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) have reached an agreement in principle on a pay offer that could bring an end to consultant strike action.

The Government is offering a 4.95% investment in pay for this financial year, in addition to the 6% pay uplift already awarded.

The pay reform package would also see a reduction in the number of pay points from eight to four and reduce the number of years it takes a consultant to reach the top of the pay scales by five years.

It would also increase the starting pay for new consultants and secure an increase for the top pay point.

The consultant contract will also be amended to enable consultants to access enhanced shared parental leave arrangements. At present, these are available for all other NHS staff but denied to consultants.

‘While this offer does not deliver all that the BMA has asked for, significant progress has been made,‘ the BMA said.

The terms will be put to BMA and HCSA members via a referendum that will likely open in mid-December and run until late January 2024.

If accepted these changes will be implemented in April 2024 and pay increases backdated to January 2024.

No further strike action will be called while members are being consulted.  

If the offer is accepted, the BMA has agreed to call an end to strike action and to stop promoting the extra-contractual rate card for consultants in England.

However, a re-ballot on industrial action remains open and, if passed, would enable consultants to call further strikes in 2024 if the offer is rejected, the BMA said.

As part of the pay investment, funding for new Local Clinical Excellence Awards (LCEAs) will be moved into basic pay, meaning this money will become consolidated, pensionable, and subject to uplifts.

These uplifts will be determined by the outcome of the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration (DDRB) process, the workings of which the Government has committed to overhauling.

This review, in conjunction with the BMA, will examine the appointments of members to the DDRB, the timing of the round, remit letters and terms of reference, and the data provided to the body on which it bases its recommendations, with changes to be implemented for the 2025/26 pay year, the Government said.

Responding to the proposed DDRB overhaul, the BMA said: ‘For far too long has the DDRB’s independence been eroded by successive Government’s looking to sway its decisions or setting its remit. Under the reform we have secured this should be less likely in the future.‘

Commenting on the consultant pay reform package, health secretary Victoria Atkins said: ‘I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and am pleased that we have been able to make this fair and reasonable offer after weeks of constructive negotiations. 

‘If accepted, it will modernise pay structures, directly addressing gender pay issues in the NHS. It will also enhance consultants’ parental leave options.

‘Putting an end to this strike action will support our efforts to bring down waiting lists and offer patients the highest quality care.’

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said: ‘We are pleased that after a month of intense talks and more than six months of strike action we never wanted to take, we have now got an offer we can put to members.

‘It is a huge shame that it has needed consultants to take industrial action to get the Government to this point when we called for talks many months ago.

‘The 4.95% investment and much-needed changes to the pay scale system comes after we successfully persuaded the Government to reform the punitive pension taxation laws earlier this year, and we also now have commitments to reforming the pay review process, which has been a key ask from the profession throughout our dispute.

‘Only by restoring the independence of this process can we hope to restore consultant pay over the coming years.’

Dr Naru Narayanan, HCSA president, said: ’Today’s announcement follows weeks of intense negotiations. Yet, while it has benefits for consultants, our executive expressed concerns about some parts of the package, including around changes to pay progression and [supporting professional activities] time.

’In coming days we shall do our utmost to educate our consultant members on the changes so they can make their own informed decision. Whatever that decision is, we shall be led by our members.

’While the ballot is open HCSA has agreed to pause strikes by consultants, but the mandate members have given us for industrial action will remain in place.’

Also responding to the pay offer, Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers said: ‘This development is a vital step towards the Government and unions resolving the industrial dispute with consultants in the NHS.

‘Industrial action has caused unprecedented disruption in the last year. Over 50 strike days have led to 1.2 million appointments for planned care being pushed back and cost the NHS an estimated £1.4bn through lost income and staff cover.

‘Trust leaders will be hugely relieved that consultants won’t be striking over Christmas given that demand for care is always higher in winter. But we’re not out of the woods yet. The deal needs to be put to a vote by union members and we won’t know the result until January.

‘It’s essential we now see similar progress with junior doctors and SAS doctors to bring an end to all industrial action across the NHS.‘

Earlier this month, the new health secretary said she was ‘committed to getting around the table’ to resolve disputes around pay that led to NHS strikes.

In July, the Government announced a 6% pay rise for doctors saying this was a ‘final’ offer which ‘no amount of strikes’ would change.

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

Re-ballot for consultant strike action launched by BMA in England

7th November 2023

The British Medical Association (BMA) has launched a re-ballot of hospital consultants to extend their mandate for strike action until June next year.

The union said that ‘productive and intensive talks’ between the consultants committee and the Government began last week, after ministers agreed to meet with the committee in the hope to find a resolution to the pay dispute.

While these talks are still underway, ‘no credible offer’ has been put on the table thus far and progress has been ‘insufficient to change plans to launch the re-ballot‘.

However, the committee did state that it will not be announcing new strike dates while the talks are ongoing. The consultants’ current mandate for strike action ends on 26 December.

Ahead of the first consultants ballot, the BMA said consultants were effectively working four months of the year for free based on a 35% decline in take-home pay since 2008/9.

Dr Vishal Sharma, the BMA’s consultants committee chair, said: ‘We gave the Government a month to get back around the table. Whilst it’s been incredibly frustrating that the Government didn’t respond until a few days before the deadline, we have now commenced talks.

‘These discussions have been constructive and are ongoing. Therefore, given our willingness to resolve this dispute we are not announcing further strike dates right now – but reserve the right to do so if necessary.

‘Our re-ballot begins today as planned as it’s vital that, even during these negotiations, we continue to have a legal mandate to call more industrial action if they break down.

‘Neither the Government nor senior doctors themselves want consultants to be on strike – we’d both much rather we were in hospitals seeing patients.

‘To prevent further strikes we need the Government to commit to fix pay now and for the future, only then can we not only resolve this dispute, but retain the NHS’s most expert clinicians at a time they’re needed most.’

A separate formal ballot of specialist, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors has also been launched.

Following informal talks with Government and results from an indicative ballot for SAS doctors – in which 88% of respondents would be prepared to strike over worsening pay and working conditions – the BMA’s SAS committee accepted the invitation for formal negotiations.

SAS doctors have seen their pay fall by up to 31% in real terms since 2008/09, according to the BMA. The union is therefore seeking an above-inflationary uplift for this year and meaningful steps to start addressing longer term pay erosion, as well as improvements to SAS doctors’ working conditions and career progression.

Highlighting the disappointment that the Government has yet to present a credible offer, SAS committee chair Dr Ujjwala Anand Mohite said: ‘Whilst talks continue to progress we are clearly still somewhat short of the credible offer we are asking Government for.

‘We are therefore asking SAS doctors to give us the mandate for action, should we need it because the current round of talks fail.

‘SAS doctors have made it very clear that we do not want to strike, we want to work and care for our patients, but we can no longer ignore the profession’s ever-growing pay and working conditions concerns – it’s driving doctors out of our health service and leaving those of us who remain with an unmanageable workload all while feeling undervalued and burnt out.

‘Industrial action is our absolute last resort, and we remain hopeful that we’ll receive a credible offer as talks continue.

‘It is in the Government’s gift to find a resolution before Christmas and avoid strike action; patients and our NHS are relying on our leaders to do so.’

Both ballots began on 6 November 2023 and close on 18 December. If successful, the mandates will run until 17 June 2024.

Previously, NHS England bosses had urged the Government to urgently resume talks with consultants ahead of winter.

In a formal warning letter, NHS England told the BMA that ‘cumulative’ impact of consultant and junior doctor strikes were causing ‘significant disruption and risk to patients’.

UK Government and BMA agree to talks over consultants pay dispute

19th October 2023

The UK Government has agreed to meet with the British Medical Association (BMA) Consultants Committee in the hope to find a resolution to the current consultants pay dispute.

The Committee received an invitation to talk with the Department for Health and Social Care following a letter from the BMA requesting the resumption of negotiations and indicating they would pause consultant strikes.

These will be the first formal talks the Committee has had with the Government since May.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA Consultants Committee, said: ‘The BMA Consultants Committee has been clear that reform of the broken pay review process is essential to resolving this dispute and that the reformed pay review body is to make truly independent recommendations on pay in order to correct for the losses that consultants have experienced that have resulted in the current workforce crisis.

‘We will be expecting to discuss and explore other solutions in the forthcoming talks.

‘It is good to see the Government is willing to come to the table and it is vital that they commit to serious negotiations with a view to bringing this avoidable dispute to a conclusion.’

In a series of posts on X (formerly Twitter), the Consultants Committee added: ’We will enter these negotiations positively and will fight hard to achieve the best possible outcome. We are clear that we will simply not talk for the sake of talking and the Government must also negotiate in good faith.

’The government has until 3 November to present us with a credible offer but if they fail to do so, we will not only announce further dates for industrial action but on 6 November will open a re-ballot to ensure we can continue taking industrial action going forward.’

After months of walkouts, consultants and junior doctors organised a joint strike for three full days at the beginning of this month, with ‘Christmas Day’-level cover.

And NHS England bosses had urged the Government to urgently resume talks with doctors ahead of winter.

NHS England chair Richard Meddings gave the stark warning that winter pressures will be ‘impossible to manage’ if also impacted by strikes, while chief executive Amanda Pritchard noted talks between the Government and doctors cannot resume ‘soon enough’.

In a formal warning letter, NHS England told the BMA that ‘cumulative’ impact of doctor strikes were causing ‘significant disruption and risk to patients’.

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

BMA invites UK Government to discuss resolving consultants’ pay dispute

3rd October 2023

The British Medical Association (BMA) has invited Government ministers to reopen discussions via the conciliation service ACAS to resolve the ongoing consultant pay dispute.

Consultants are currently jointly striking with junior doctors, lasting from 7am yesterday (Monday 2 October) through to 7am on Thursday (5 October).

With no future strike dates announced for consultants, however, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma has written to the Prime Minister offering to enter negotiations.

ACAS has indicated it will facilitate those talks if necessary, the BMA has said.

In his letter, Dr Sharma said: ‘Everyone wants this dispute to end – your Government’s refusal even to talk to us about pay is coming at a huge cost to all involved. Patients have been clear: findings from our recent public survey reveal that a majority believes the Government should reopen pay talks and use the funds associated with covering industrial action to settle the pay dispute.

‘Our peers have been clear: NHS system leaders are routinely calling for negotiations to progress. And we have been clear: meet us and find a way forward before more strike action is called.’

September saw the first ever joint industrial action by both job titles, with 129,913 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled. More than 26,802 staff were absent at the strike’s peak on 20 September.

Commenting on the BMA’s letter, chief executive of NHS Providers Sir Julian Hartley said: ‘Something has to give. We can’t go into another ‘full-on’ winter with the threat of more strikes hanging over the NHS. We have said before that we would welcome all sides using an intermediary like ACAS if that helps to break the deadlock.

‘Care delayed by strikes is putting more patients at greater risk and making it well-nigh impossible for the NHS to reduce growing waiting lists as the government wants.’

The NHS Confederation yesterday warned that the Prime Minister’s waiting list pledge will be missed unless strike action involving doctors is resolved soon.

Health leaders have urged both the BMA and the Government to set aside their pre-conditions and reach a compromise, the Confederation said.

Commenting on the three day joint strike, NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: ‘NHS services have had very little time to recover from the previous action, and to now face an unprecedented three consecutive days of ‘Christmas Day’ cover this week which will prove extremely challenging, with almost all routine care brought to a near standstill.

‘Staff are working incredibly hard to prioritise emergency care, and we’re very grateful to the public for using the NHS wisely during this period of disruption by using 999 in life-threatening situations and 111 online and community services like pharmacies and GPs for everything else.’

This article was originally published by our sister publication Healthcare Leader.

NHS joint doctors strikes like three ‘Christmas days’

2nd October 2023

Joint strikes by junior doctors and consultants will bring the NHS to a ‘near standstill’, not unlike three consecutive Christmas day shifts.

From 7am today (Monday 2 October) to 7am on Thursday (5 October) both junior doctors and consultants will deliver Christmas Day levels of staffing, with emergency care still accessible.

September saw the first ever joint industrial action by both job titles, with 129,913 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled.

More than 26,802 staff were absent at the strike’s peak on 20 September.

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: ‘NHS services have had very little time to recover from the previous action, and to now face an unprecedented three consecutive days of ‘Christmas Day’ cover this week which will prove extremely challenging, with almost all routine care brought to a near standstill.

‘Staff are working incredibly hard to prioritise emergency care, and we’re very grateful to the public for using the NHS wisely during this period of disruption by using 999 in life-threatening situations and 111 online and community services like pharmacies and GPs for everything else.’

This article was originally published by our sister publication Healthcare Leader.

NHS braces for joint junior doctor and consultant strikes

19th September 2023

Consultants and junior doctors will take part in joint strike action this week for the first time in history, with NHS leaders warning of expected disruption to patient care.

Strikes this week begin on Tuesday (19 September) with consultants taking to the picket line, to be joined by junior doctors on Wednesday (20 September).

From 7am on Wednesday, both junior doctors and consultants will deliver ‘Christmas day levels of staffing only’, meaning that emergency care will be provided. Junior doctors will then continue a full walkout for 48 hours on 21 and 22 September.

Both professions will strike again on 2 October through to 4 October.

This marks the tenth month of industrial action across the NHS, which has resulted in 885,000 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled.

Industrial action by consultants last month saw around 6,000 staff off per day.

The NHS is urging the public to use health services as they ‘usually would’.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: ‘The NHS has simply never seen this kind of industrial action in its history. This week’s first ever joint action means almost all planned care will come to a stop, and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed, which is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, and poses an enormous challenge for colleagues across the NHS.

‘We’re very grateful to the public for using the NHS wisely during this period when we will be prioritising emergency care. In a life-threatening situation, use 999 and A&E as normal, but for everything else, use 111 online or use services in the community which are largely unaffected, like GPs and pharmacies. Patients who have an appointment and who haven’t been contacted should attend as normal.’

This article was originally published by our sister publication Healthcare Leader.

NHS consultants in England vote yes for industrial action over pay

27th June 2023

The BMA has secured backing for its plans for NHS consultants to take industrial action on 20 and 21 July 2023.

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) of eligible consultants voted in favour of strike action in the ballot, which saw a 71% turnout. Only consultants who are members of the BMA could take part in the vote.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first time senior NHS doctors have gone on strike since 1975.

Their decision will add to the Government’s woes in trying to achieve its targets to reduce the elective backlog, with junior doctors already due to take the NHS’s longest-ever strike action 13-18 July.

‘Repeatedly devalued by Government’

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said consultants had not taken their decision around industrial action ‘lightly’ but the vote shows ‘how furious they are at being repeatedly devalued by Government’.

‘Consultants are not worth a third less than we were 15 years ago and have had enough. Consultants don’t want to have to take industrial action, but have been left with no option in the face of a Government that continues to cut our pay year after year.’

But he stressed that ‘it is not too late to avert strike action and the Government simply needs come back to us with a credible offer that we can put to our members’.

‘We are simply asking for fairness to ensure that there is a pay settlement that begins to reverse the real-terms pay decline that we have suffered and a commitment to fully reform the pay review process to ensure that it can make truly independent recommendations in the future that take into account historical losses so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again. But if they refuse, it is with a heavy heart that we will take action next month,’ Dr Sharma said.

He added doctors will ‘prioritise patient safety and continue to provide emergency care, in-keeping with the level of services available on Christmas Day’.

And he said: ‘Consultants are the NHS’s most experienced, highly-skilled clinicians, and are responsible not just for providing specialist care patients, but also leading entire services and training the doctors of the future. The Government can and must fix consultant pay now and for the future. Failure to do so will lead consultants to leave the NHS and the country, or towards retirement before their time.

‘The loss of this expertise would be devastating for services, patients and the future of the NHS.’

Reopening talks on the cards

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We hugely value the work of NHS consultants and it is disappointing the BMA consultants have voted to take strike action. Consultants received a 4.5% pay uplift last financial year, increasing average earnings to around £128,000, and they will benefit from generous changes to pension taxation announced at budget.

‘Strikes are hugely disruptive for patients and put pressure on other NHS staff. We’ve been engaging with the BMA Consultants Committee on their concerns already and stand ready to open talks again – we urge them to come to the negotiating table rather than proceeding with their proposed strike dates.

‘We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.’

The Government has welcomed the news that there will be no further nursing strike action as unions have failed to secure required mandates.

In response, a Government spokesperson said: ‘We hugely value the work of nurses and welcome the end to hugely disruptive industrial action so staff can continue caring for patients and cutting waiting lists.

‘More than one million eligible NHS staff are receiving their pay rise and one-off payments this month, with an experienced nurse receiving over £5,100 in extra pay across last year and this year. We are committed to supporting nurses to continue to progress and develop, including as part of the upcoming NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

‘We hope other unions who remain in dispute with the Government recognise it is time to stop industrial action and move forward together.’

Radiographers in the UK have also recently been balloted over strike action. The Society of Radiographers (SoR) closed the ballot on 28 June and the results are due in the coming days.

SoR executive director Dean Rogers said: ‘Radiographers and doctors shouldn’t be having to threaten strike action to get the Government’s attention but unless they listen, engage and revisit their 5%, many more will likely be joining us again before the end of the year.’

A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

Consultants now effectively working four months of the year for free, says BMA

16th May 2023

A ballot for industrial action by consultants in England has opened after pay talks with the Government broke down, the BMA has announced.

The Government’s final pay offer represented a real-terms pay cut, the BMA noted, which would continue the downward trend seen over the past 15 years. Indeed, even before taking inflation into account, consultants’ take-home pay has declined by 35% since 2008/9.

‘As a result of this, consultants are now effectively working four months of the year for free,’ said Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee. He added that they had been left with ‘no option but to proceed with the ballot for industrial action‘.

While Dr Sharma acknowledged the constructive manner in which the talks were approached by Government officials, he highlighted that ‘ultimately the Government made a political choice to cut our pay again this year and unless we can secure a commitment that the Government will take the necessary steps to restore our pay over the long term, we simply cannot accept an offer that sees our pay fall even further.’

The ballot, which opened on Monday, will remain open until 27 June 2023. In the meantime, the BMA is urging the Government to return to talks and put forward a ‘reasonable offer’.

This comes after a consultative ballot in February 2023 saw 17,000 BMA-member NHS consultants in England voting for strike action. Turnout was 61% and 86% voted in favour of strike action. While not a legal mandate for strike action, the BMA stressed this ’emphatic result’ and the apparent ‘strength of the anger amongst England’s senior doctors’.

‘Consultants are not worth a third less than they were 15 years ago,’ Dr Sharma continued. ‘With elective waiting lists standing at 7.3 million, we cannot afford to lose any more highly experienced clinicians who are leaving or taking breaks from the NHS due to pay erosion. NHS patients deserve better than an understaffed health service, and NHS staff deserve better than a Government which does not recognise their worth at a time of global shortages of skilled healthcare professionals.’

If consultants do vote in favour of a walk out, it will be the first time since 1975 that senior doctors will have taken such action.

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