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BMA invites Government to discuss consultants’ strike

BMA invites Government to discuss consultants’ strike
By Jess Hacker
3 October 2023

The BMA has invited Government ministers to discuss resolving the consultant pay dispute, via the conciliation service ACAS.

Consultants are currently jointly striking with junior doctors, lasting from 7am yesterday (Monday 2 October) through to 7am on Thursday (5 October).

With no future strike dates announced for consultants, however, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma has written to the Prime Minister offering to enter negotiations.

ACAS has indicated it will facilitate those talks if necessary, the BMA has said.

In his letter, Dr Sharma said: ‘Everyone wants this dispute to end – your Government’s refusal even to talk to us about pay is coming at a huge cost to all involved. Patients have been clear: findings from our recent public survey reveal that a majority believes the Government should reopen pay talks and use the funds associated with covering industrial action to settle the pay dispute.

‘Our peers have been clear: NHS system leaders are routinely calling for negotiations to progress. And we have been clear: meet us and find a way forward before more strike action is called.’

Last week saw the first ever joint industrial action by both job titles, with 129,913 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled. More than 26,802 staff were absent at the strike’s peak on 20 September.

Commenting on the BMA’s letter, chief executive of NHS Providers Sir Julian Hartley said: ‘Something has to give. We can’t go into another ‘full on’ winter with the threat of more strikes hanging over the NHS. We have said before that we would welcome all sides using an intermediary like ACAS if that helps to break the deadlock.

‘Care delayed by strikes is putting more patients at greater risk and making it well-nigh impossible for the NHS to reduce growing waiting lists as the government wants.’

The NHS Confederation yesterday warned that the Prime Minister’s waiting list pledge will be missed unless strike action involving doctors is resolved soon.

Health leaders have urged both the BMA and the Government to set aside their pre-conditions and reach a compromise, the Confederation said.

Commenting on the three day joint strike, NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: ‘NHS services have had very little time to recover from the previous action, and to now face an unprecedented three consecutive days of ‘Christmas Day’ cover this week which will prove extremely challenging, with almost all routine care brought to a near standstill.

‘Staff are working incredibly hard to prioritise emergency care, and we’re very grateful to the public for using the NHS wisely during this period of disruption by using 999 in life-threatening situations and 111 online and community services like pharmacies and GPs for everything else.’

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