Advertisement

Senior doctors' strike could end after new pay offer from government

A new pay offer has been made to NHS consultants which could end long-running strike action in England.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would see most senior doctors get an extra 4.95% "investment in pay" for this financial year, on top of the 6% annual pay rise already awarded.

Politics Live: Sadiq Khan tells COVID inquiry he was 'kept in the dark'

The offer also involves changes to the pay scale structure and a commitment to reform the pay review body that makes recommendations on doctors' wages.

The breakthrough has been hailed by ministers and health leaders - but the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was "appalled" that the government had found the will to reform pay of the NHS' highest earners "while our members are left with the lowest pay rise in the public sector".

The BMA will now put the offer to its members for a vote, with the changes paid retrospectively from April 2024 if accepted - though it will be backdated to January.

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."

He said the commitment to reforming the pay review process "has been a key ask from the profession throughout our dispute".

He added: "Only by restoring the independence of this process can we hope to restore consultant pay over the coming years."

The deal comes just two weeks after the new health secretary Victoria Atkins took over the job from Steve Barclay.

She said if accepted, the offer will "bring down waiting lists and offer patients highest quality care".

More than one million appointments have had to be rescheduled as a result of strike action by both consultants and junior doctors, jeopardising the government's pledge to bring down soaring NHS waiting lists.

A deal has still not been reached with junior doctors, who have been involved in numerous walkouts over the past year.

Asked about the possibility of a pay offer for junior doctors, Ms Atkins said she is "very much open to discussions with them".

It is not clear how the extra 4.95% investment in consultant pay will be funded.

However the BMA said 1.5% of the cost is recycled funding as it has agreed to end a bonus scheme consultants can get to top up basic pay, known as the Local Clinical Excellence Awards.

Read More:
Almost half of public blame government for industrial action by doctors, poll finds

The BMA has also agreed to end the use of its rate card - which advises doctors on how much to charge for non-contractual work including cover during strikes. The government said this has increased the cost of finding shift cover during industrial action.

As well as the pay rise, the structure of banding doctors will be reformed so there are less pay grades.

It means consultants will reach the top of the pay scale five years sooner than under the current scheme and there will be an increase to the starting salary for a consultant, as well as the pay at the top.

The change is designed to ensure consultants spend less time on the bottom-band and rise to higher pay scales more quickly, in a move which is hoped to address gender pay issues in the NHS.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it a "fair deal" for consultants and patients and claimed it will "keep inflation down".

The past year has seen strike action across the NHS, with ministers repeatedly rejecting demands for double-digit pay rises made by the likes of nursing and ambulance staff, claiming it would make inflation worse.

RCN chief Nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said her union has "campaigned for years" for quicker progression through the pay scale, but this was not included in the deal struck earlier this year for nurses and thousands of other health workers.

She said: "It's galling that almost 12 months since nursing staff took the unprecedented decision to strike, our pay dispute remains unresolved, and the government continues to undervalue our profession."