NHS consultants accept pay offer, ending year-long dispute with government

BMA members in England vote 83% in favour of deal, but consultants committee chair says ‘fight is not yet over’

Strike action by senior NHS doctors in England has been called off after they accepted a pay offer following a year-long dispute with the government.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents NHS consultants, voted by 83% to accept the government’s new pay offer, which also included changes to the review body on doctors’ and dentists’ remuneration (DDRB).

Consultants had rejected a pay deal in January. The latest offer, according to the BMA, includes a 2.85% increase for those who have been consultants for between four and seven years. This is in addition to the 6% awarded during the pay review process last year.

The BMA said the deal meant there would be significant changes to how the DDRB appointed members, meaning it “can no longer ignore the historical losses that doctors have suffered or the fact that countries abroad are competing for UK doctors with the offer of significantly higher salaries”.

It said the offer also improved the previous government proposal on changing the pay scale for senior doctors.

Consultants have taken strike action over the past year, and previously said they would call off the industrial action if they received a pay rise of about 12%.

Members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) also voted to accept the offer, by 83%.

Dr Vishal Sharma, the chair of the BMA consultants committee, said: “The last year has seen consultants take unprecedented strike action in our fight to address our concerns about pay and how the supposedly independent pay review process was operating. At the heart of this dispute was our concern for patients and the future sustainability of the NHS. Without valuing doctors, we lose them. Without doctors, we have no NHS and patients suffer.

“But the fight is not yet over. This is only the end of the beginning, and we have some way to go before the pay consultants have lost over the last 15 years has been restored. Therefore, all eyes will be on this year’s pay review round, recommendations from the DDRB and response from the government.”

Julian Hartley, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “This is welcome news for trust leaders. We aren’t out of the woods yet, however, with junior doctors having voted for more strikes and industrial action while other specialty and specialist doctors have rejected a government pay offer.

“Hugely disruptive and costly strikes in the NHS can’t become ‘business as usual’. Remaining concerns must be resolved. Industrial action takes a toll on patients, staff and stretched services. We urge politicians and unions to find a way to end all disputes.”

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, said: “I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and I am pleased that, after weeks of negotiations, they have accepted this fair and reasonable offer, putting an end to the threat of further strike action. Consultants will now be able to focus on providing the highest quality care for patients and we can consolidate our progress on waiting lists – which have fallen for the past four months.

“This deal directly addresses gender pay issues in the NHS and enhances consultants’ parental leave options – representing a fair deal for consultants, patients and taxpayers.”

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