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Consultants vote to call off strikes as reform of pay review body confirmed

Consultants vote to call off strikes as reform of pay review body confirmed
By Beth Gault
8 April 2024

Consultants in England have voted to accept the government’s latest pay offer and put an end to recent strikes.

The offer includes reform of the consultant pay scale backdated from 1 March 2024, reducing the time it takes to get to the top, which hopes to reduce the gender pay gap in medicine. A 2.85% (£3,000) uplift for those who have been consultants between four to seven years was also agreed.

The deal includes the reform of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB), which advises the government on rates of pay for doctors and dentists, from next year.

Changes will include greater involvement from unions in the process of appointing to the DDRB, considering ‘long-term trends’ and changes to doctors’ pay over the years, and that the government will not be able to ‘constrain’ its remit with reference to inflation and economic evidence.

Chief executive of NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said NHS leaders would ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ at the news.  

‘The health service relies heavily on its consultant workforce and these professionals have helped to keep the most life-critical services afloat including over the difficult winter period and the recent junior doctors’ walkouts,’ he said.

However, he warned the NHS would still face the impact of further junior doctor strikes, after 98% voted earlier this year to continue industrial action between April and September.

‘The potential for further junior doctor strikes looms large, which could lead to more operations and appointments being cancelled and place more pressure on already stretched services. While NHS organisations have worked tirelessly to fill rota gaps and keep patients safe more than 1.4 million appointments and operations have been cancelled over the last year of industrial action, with even more patients joining waiting lists,’ he said.

‘This agreement between the BMA consultant committee and government shows that a sensible middle ground can be reached through negotiations, and we urge the BMA junior doctors committee and government to quickly re-enter negotiations to reach a similar agreement to stop further damaging strike action by junior doctors.’

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive, NHS Providers, added that it was ‘welcome’ news, but that ‘we aren’t out of the woods yet’.

‘Hugely disruptive and costly strikes in the NHS can’t become ‘business as usual’,’ he said. ‘Remaining concerns must be resolved. Industrial action takes a toll on patients, staff and stretched services. We urge politicians and unions to find a way to end all disputes.’

In November, NHS England reduced the national elective recovery target for 2023/24 from 107% to 103% following the impact of industrial action.

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