Senior doctors in England accept deal to end pay dispute

Consultants follow nurses in reaching agreement with government to ease pressure on NHS

More than 80 per cent of consultants voted for the deal. Getty Images
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National Health Service consultants in England have accepted a pay deal to end a year-long dispute with the government.

Strikes over the past two years have heaped pressure on the NHS, with more than seven million patients in England on waiting lists for hospital treatment, leading to thousands of cancelled appointments and procedures.

The pay deal will increase the salaries of junior consultants by £11,000 ($13,900) from the start of the year, includes a £3,000 boost for those who have been consultants between four and seven years and will raise the starting salaries of the most senior consultants to £132,000 a year. The accepted terms are in addition to the 6 per cent pay increase awarded during a remuneration review process last summer.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the deal was good for consultants and patients and would help to cut gender pay disparity.

There has been a series of strikes by medical staff including nurses, junior doctors and ambulance crew in an effort to obtain bigger pay rises in the face of high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

The strikes have also had political fallout because the NHS is funded by taxpayers and health care is priority issue for voters.

The BMA said 83 per cent of its members in England voted in favour of the deal. It includes changes to the review body on doctors' and dentists' remuneration (DDRB).

“These changes mean that the DDRB 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,” the BMA said. "The offer also improves on the previous proposal to reform the consultant pay scale."

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the agreement between his government and consultants. “The end of consultant strike action in the NHS is excellent news for patients," he said. "It will mean we can continue making progress towards our goal of cutting the waiting lists, which have now fallen for the fourth month in a row.

“Consultants perform a vital role at the heart of the NHS. I’m pleased they’ve accepted this deal, which is fair for them and fair for the taxpayer.”

The BMA, which has about 190,000 members, recommended that senior doctors vote to accept the new offer.

"After years of repeated real-terms pay cuts, caused by government interference and a failure of the pay review process, consultants have spoken and now clearly feel that this offer is enough of a first step to address our concerns to end the current dispute," said Dr Vishal Sharma, who leads the BMA Consultants Committee.

"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."

NHS nurses ended strike action last year after a pay deal. A long-running pay dispute between the government and junior doctors, who staged a five-day strike in February, has not yet been resolved.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 1:07 PM