NHS consultants in England to vote on pay deal to end strikes
An end to a wave of strikes by senior NHS doctors in England was in sight on Monday after the union representing consultants agreed to recommend a pay offer by the government to members.
The British Medical Association said the offer included a 4.95 per cent “investment in pay” for the 2023-24 financial year, while the majority of consultants would “also receive an additional uplift of up to 12.8 per cent, depending on their pay point”.
The deal would enable consultants to reach “the top end of the pay scale” five years sooner than possible at present, the BMA said. If accepted, the union said the changes would apply from January 2024 and would be paid retrospectively in April 2024.
The BMA said consultants would not go on strike while considering and voting on the deal, with a result expected in January. The government is still in talks with junior doctors, who are also represented by the BMA. Senior officials close to the negotiations hope the deal with consultants will increase pressure on junior doctors to reach an agreement.
Strikes across the health service since December 2022 have compounded pressures on the NHS in England ahead of winter, with about 1.2mn operations and appointments cancelled since walkouts began.
Consultants had been calling for an above-inflation pay rise this year as the first step towards addressing 15 years of pay erosion. In July, the government gave consultants a 6 per cent pay increase this year, plus an extra £1,250 payment consolidated into base salary for junior doctors.
With nurses and other staff having agreed pay deals, health leaders had urged ministers to “pull every lever” to prevent any more stoppages by consultants and junior doctors.
They warned that NHS England could not afford more industrial action as the service braced itself for one of its most testing periods, and that any strikes would further dent Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to cut waiting lists for non-urgent care ahead of the general election, expected next year.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS England chief executive, said the “breakthrough” on Monday was “a huge relief” to the service.
But Professor Nicola Ranger, chief nurse at the Royal College of Nursing, the professional body, warned that nursing staff would be “appalled” that ministers had found the “political will to reform pay for some of the highest earners in the NHS while our members are left with the lowest pay rise in the public sector”.
Sunak said ending walkouts was “vitally important if we want to continue making progress towards cutting waiting lists while making sure patients get the care they deserve”.