Senior doctors have been offered an improved pay offer from the government which could end their long running strike action in England.
NHS consultants in England will get an extra 4.95% “investment in pay” from January on top of the 6% annual pay rise already awarded for the current financial year, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.
However, the pay offer deal agreed with the doctors’ unions is not a blanket award and the amount individual doctors will receive will vary from zero to nearly 13% subject to an overhaul of contracts. England’s 59,296 consultants are paid across 20 different pay bands. The uplift – will be mainly paid to the highest earners, according to the Guardian.
NHS leaders have welcomed the breakthrough in the dispute calling it “a vital step” towards ending walkouts that have crippled NHS services. The government said the pay offer represents “a fair and reasonable way forward”.
However, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it is “appalled” the government has found the will to reform the pay of the highest earners in the NHS “while our members are left with the lowest pay rise in the public sector”.
RCN chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said her union has “campaigned for years” for pay reform and for nurses and health workers to have better progression through the pay scale, but this was not included in the deal they struck with the government earlier this year.
That saw nurses and other health workers awarded 5% and a one-off payment of £1,655 to end their dispute.
“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,” said Ranger.
BMA members and those of the much smaller Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) will be balloted on the government’s offer. If members vote to accept it, both unions will call off the long running strike action that has proved so disruptive to NHS care and seen hundreds of thousands of patients impacted by cancelled operations and appointments.
Votes will take next month but the results will not be published until January. This means senior doctors and NHS consultants offered improved pay will not hold industrial action before Christmas and the traditional start of the “NHS winter crisis”.
Chair of the BMA consultants committee Dr Vishal Sharma 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.”
A commitment to reforming the pay review process “has been a key ask from the profession throughout our dispute”, said Sharma, adding:”Only by restoring the independence of this process can we hope to restore consultant pay over the coming years.”
The deal struck with the unions comes just two weeks after Victoria Atkins replaced Steve Barclay as health and social care secretary.
Atkins said the deal will “bring down waiting lists and offer patients highest quality care”.