UK

Consultants to vote on new deal after intensive talks

If accepted, the deal could bring an end to strike action by top hospital doctors in England.

Strikes have beset the NHS in England for more than a year
Doctors on strike Strikes have beset the NHS in England for more than a year (Jacob King/PA)

Consultants in England have reached a new deal with the Government which could potentially draw a line under the ongoing dispute over pay.

The British Medical Association (BMA) and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) will now put the offer to their members.

The new offer, if accepted by members, would see more doctors getting an additional rise compared to the previous offer – which was narrowly voted down by medics.

The deal would see top hospital doctors get a rise of between 6% and 19.6%, depending on the number of years as a consultant.

If accepted, the deal could bring an end to strike action by top hospital doctors in England.

BMA consultants committee chairman Dr Vishal Sharma said: “This hard fought-for offer marks a step forward in restoring fairness and if it is accepted, as we hope it will be, it is essential that the pay review process makes recommendations that will further restore consultants’ pay in the coming years, to fix the retention crisis among the consultant workforce – and therefore safeguard medical expertise in the NHS.”

Commenting on the new offer for consultants in England, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Ending strike action in the NHS is vital if we want to cut waiting lists and make sure patients are getting the care they deserve.

“This improved offer demonstrates that we are seeking a fair agreement that is good for consultants, good for patients, and good for the taxpayer.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins added: “I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and am glad that unions are recommending this revised offer to their members – they clearly recognise the various benefits it offers.

“If accepted, it will modernise pay structures – directly addressing gender pay issues in the NHS – and enhance consultants’ parental leave options.

“It paves the way to ending industrial action by consultants following many weeks of constructive dialogue and represents a good offer for consultants, patients and the taxpayer.”

The BMA said that it has also secured “important changes” to the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) pay review body which will “return it to its original purpose and independence”, including changes to the way members are appointed to the body and that the Government will no longer be able to limit its remit with reference to inflation targets.

The body will also make its pay recommendations for doctors in the “context of long-term trends in the wider labour market and comparator professions, including relevant international comparators”, the union added.

The BMA consultants committee has recommended that consultants should vote to accept the offer.

Dr Sharma added: “After narrowly rejecting the last offer, consultants raised three key concerns: that there was not enough movement on restoring the DDRB’s impartiality; too many consultants were left with no additional uplift this year; and they were worried at the potential for their protected time for service improvement and research to be curtailed and diverted.

“In our talks with Government we now feel we’ve made enough progress on these issues to go back to the membership and recommend they vote to accept the offer, and in doing so end the current pay dispute and prevent further industrial action.

“Ultimately, each consultant will have their own decision to make, but the BMA’s consultants committee believes the offer marks significant progress in reaching our aims of reforming the pay review process and preventing further pay cuts.”

HCSA president Dr Naru Narayanan said: “After further high-intensity negotiations the HCSA Executive feels this package has improved sufficiently to recommend a Yes vote to members.

“As a democratic organisation it is for our members to have the final say. They will now exercise their own judgement on the package. Should they vote Yes, it will end HCSA consultants’ immediate industrial dispute.”

The NHS Confederation urged medics to accept the offer to end the “damaging dispute”.

“We also hope that junior doctors can find a similar path to the consultants and agree a deal with the Government that can be put to their members,” said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

During the current dispute, consultants in England have staged four rounds of strike action across nine days.

Junior doctors, who have staged 10 rounds of strike action, are still waiting to re-enter talks with the Government as the dispute over pay rumbles on.

And specialist, associate specialist and specialty (SAS) doctors in England are hoping to restart negotiations after members voted against a new pay offer.

Almost 1.5 million appointments have been rescheduled as a result of strike action across the NHS in England.

The health service has been beset by strikes for more than a year, with walkouts from a number of different staff including doctors, nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists.

NHS England said that since strikes began in December 2022, some 1,424,269 inpatient and outpatient appointments had been rescheduled.