Pay deal could end NHS consultant strikes

Consultants from the BMA on the picket line (PA Wire)
Consultants from the BMA on the picket line (PA Wire)

Consultants in England have reached a deal with the Government which could potentially end strikes in the NHS, the Department of Health and Social Care has said.

In a statement, the DHSC confirmed it had struck a deal with health unions that would "modernise" the consultant contract and reform the pay structure for senior doctors.

It follows weeks of talks between ministers and the British Medical Association (BMA) and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA). The deal will now be put to members of the unions.

Consultant members of the BMA have walked out twice over pay, causing severe disruption to planned NHS care.

If members agree to the deal, strikes by top hospital doctors would end.

As part of the agreement, consultants will receive an extra 4.95 per cent on top of the six per cent annual rise they have been given this financial year.

The majority of consultants will receive an extra rise of up to 12.8%, depending on their pay point, the BMA said, adding this was separate to any pay award recommended by the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) for 2024/25.

The union said if its members vote to accept the deal, the changes will be applicable from January 2024, but will be paid retrospectively in April 2024.

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.

"How each consultant will benefit will depend on their individual circumstances, and we will be providing them with as much detail as we can, so they are able to look carefully through the details to help them decide whether to accept the offer."

The government is still negotiating with junior doctors over pay. They have been involved in numerous walkouts over the past year, but no deal has yet been reached with them.

The deal with consultants has been signed off by new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins just two weeks after she was appointed to the job. Talks had first begun under her predecessor Steve Barclay.

She 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.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Ending damaging strike action in the NHS is vitally important if we want to continue making progress towards cutting waiting lists while making sure patients get the care they deserve.

“This is a fair deal for consultants who will benefit from major reform to their contract, it is fair for taxpayers because it will not risk our ongoing work to tackle inflation, and most importantly it is a good deal for patients to see the end of consultant industrial action.”