NHS bosses are braced for a summer of chaos after union leaders suggested a 50 per cent pay hike would not be enough to stop senior doctors from striking.
In comments unearthed by the Mail, officials from doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) said that if ministers were to offer consultants 50 per cent it would still be just a ‘drop in the ocean’.
This is despite NHS consultants already earning an average of £128,000 a year and the union separately demanding a 35 per cent pay rise for junior doctors.
The comments from Vishal Sharma and Mike Henley, chairman and deputy-chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, threaten to escalate the bitter dispute between ministers and health unions.
Disputes with nurses and junior doctors remain unresolved in England, raising the prospect of all three coordinating strikes for the first time.
Junior doctors have demanded a 35 per cent pay hike
Unlike nurses and junior doctors, consultants are yet to strike. But more than 30,000 are being balloted and look certain to vote in favour of action after 86 per cent did so in a test ballot in March. The vote closes at the end of June.
In comments made on the little known Senior Review podcast, Dr Sharma said: ‘We now need to start from scratch and say what should a doctor in the UK in 2023 be paid. We can argue that it should be 50 per cent higher, the Government can argue whatever it should be. And I have to say, even 50 per cent… is still a drop in the ocean compared to America, Australia and other places.’
Dr Henley added: ‘When you consider… the 17 years of training, the stress, difficulty and complexity of what you do, you’re worth every penny.
‘So the question to you lot is, ‘What do we do?’ Do we go on Newsnight and say, we demand a 50 per cent increase… well I would, obviously.’
Health Secretary Steve Barclay yesterday held firm on the Government’s position, saying it would not improve its pay offer to nurses, which includes a one-off payment equivalent to 2 per cent of salaries in the 2022/23 financial year and a 5 per cent rise for 2023/24.
It was rejected by members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last month, despite the union’s boss Pat Cullen recommending they accept.
The RCN is already balloting its 300,000 members on further strike action over the next six months. When asked by Sky News whether the Government would resume talks with the union, Mr Barclay said: ‘Not on the amount of pay.’
Talks with the BMA over junior doctors’ pay have also broken down after the union rejected a 5 per cent offer, with Mr Barclay telling the BBC yesterday: ‘They haven’t moved from 35 per cent, that’s the key.’
But Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: ‘We’ve been very consistent in what we’re wanting and that’s to restore the pay doctors have lost over the last 15 years… which is roughly 35 per cent up to April [last year].’
In response to his podcast comments, Dr Sharma said: ‘Consultants have quite simply had enough and this is why we’re being forced to ballot for industrial action.’ A Health Department spokesman said: ‘We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.’
Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said the decisions were ‘clinically led’ and ‘first and foremost about improving the quality of care’.
Talks with the BMA over junior doctors’ pay have also broken down after the union rejected a 5 per cent offer
She said: ‘I know the team have consulted with medical experts, specialist clinicians, those who commission services and a great number of patient groups every step of the way.
‘Achieving consensus has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. The fact that the programme also reduces unwarranted variation across the country and helps to tackle the backlog as well as freeing valuable clinical time are also huge bonuses.’ But GP leaders are worried about the knock-on this will have on family doctors, already struggling to cope with increasing demand.
Dr Margaret Ikpoh, of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), raised concerns that the changes could overload family doctors.
She said: ‘Plans to reduce the pressures on hospitals cannot be implemented in isolation without considering the impact on general practice and the huge workload and workforce pressures GPs and their teams are facing.’