Fresh pay offer could end NHS consultant strikes

17 minutes ago
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By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent

A fresh pay offer has been made to NHS consultants which could end strike action in England.

It would see many senior doctors in the health service getting an extra increase from January, on top of the 6% annual rise they’ve already been given this financial year.

An extra 4.95% will be put into the consultants’ pay pot.

But the amount individual doctors get will vary from zero to nearly 13% as part of an overhaul of their contract.

They will then be entitled to another pay rise in the 2024-25 financial year – although how much that will be has yet to be decided.

The offer will now be put to British Medical Association members as well as those who are part of the much smaller Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union.

In comparison nurses and other health workers were given 5% and a one-off lump sum of at least £1,655 this year to end their strike action.

Cancelled appointments

The offer comes after consultants in England have taken part in nine days of strikes in their dispute over pay. Consultants last took strike action in early October.

The government is also in negotiation 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 has been signed off by Health Secretary Victoria Atkins just two weeks after she was appointed to the job. Talks had first begun under her predecessor Steve Barclay.

BMA consultants leader Dr Vishal Sharma said he was pleased there had been a breakthrough, but added: “It is a huge shame that it has needed consultants to take industrial action to get to this point”.

Ms Atkins said it was a “fair and reasonable offer” that would also help modernise the contract, address gender pay issues and enhance 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,” she added.

Strikes by NHS staff have caused more than one million treatments and appointments to be cancelled and cost the health service £1bn in premium payments and planning and preparation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has blamed them for the failure so far to bring down the hospital waiting list, which is currently at a record high of 7.8 million.

The in-year pay increase will actually only cost the government 3.45% after the BMA agreed to end one of the merit awards systems consultants can get to top up basic pay.

As well as the pay rise, the system of banding doctors will also be reformed.

Currently there are 19 different bands, but that will be reduced to 14.

The changed is designed to ensure consultants spend less time on the bottom-band and rise to the top more quickly, which it is hoped will help women who have taken time out to have and care for children.

The BMA has also agreed to stop pushing for premium rates of up to £269-an-hour for consultants to do overtime.

Consultants will have to wait until April to get the extra money, but it will be backdated to January, if they give the deal their backing.

The BMA is expected to launch its consultation with members in the coming weeks with a result expected by mid January. The union’s leadership will not go as far as to recommend the deal to members – instead it will adopt a neutral position to it.

There will be no strike action until the results of that are known.

Consultants had originally asked for an above-inflation pay rise this year – a figure in excess of 11% had been floated – and a commitment to start restoring pay in future years.

The BMA had argued that since 2008 pay levels had fallen by significantly once inflation was taken into account.

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