BMA calls on Government to come forward with credible pay offer for consultants in England and avoid strikes

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 27 June 2023
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The BMA’s consultants committee is calling on the Government to present a credible pay offer for consultants in England, and to commit to meaningful reform of the broken pay review process, in order to avoid strikes by senior doctors after members voted yes to industrial action.

More than 24,000 consultants in England voted in the BMA’s ballot (a turnout of 71%), with 20,741 (86%) voting for industrial action.1

Following repeated Government interference with the so-called independent review body, the DDRB, take-home pay for consultants in England has fallen by 35% since 2008/2009. The BMA was forced to launch its ballot of consultants after talks between the Government and BMA negotiators broke down, due to the Government insisting on delivering yet another real-terms pay cut for consultants and failing to fully commit to restore the review body’s independence and its original remit

Now, unless the Government comes forward with a credible offer that the BMA’s consultants committee can in good faith put to its members, consultants in England will take part in industrial action on 20 and 21 July.

This industrial action will take the form of Christmas Day cover. This means that most routine and elective services will be cancelled but full emergency cover will remain in place. The action will last from 7am on Thursday 20 July to 7am on Saturday 22 July.

The BMA announced its planned dates for industrial action six weeks before the potential action so that consultants and their colleagues were able to put in early plans to manage patient lists and prioritise urgent patient care in the event of a successful ballot.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:

“We know consultants don’t take the decision around industrial action lightly, but this vote shows how furious they are at being repeatedly devalued by Government. Consultants are not worth a third less than we were 15 years ago and have had enough.

“Consultants don’t want to have to take industrial action, but have been left with no option in the face of a Government that continues to cut our pay year after year. However, it is not too late to avert strike action and the Government simply needs come back to us with a credible offer that we can put to our members.

“We are simply asking for fairness to ensure that there is a pay settlement that begins to reverse the real-terms pay decline that we have suffered and a commitment to fully reform the pay review process to ensure that it can make truly independent recommendations in the future that take into account historical losses so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again. But if they refuse, it is with a heavy heart that we will take action next month. We will prioritise patient safety and continue to provide emergency care, in-keeping with the level of services available on Christmas Day.

“Consultants are the NHS’s most experienced, highly-skilled clinicians, and are responsible not just for providing specialist care patients, but also leading entire services and training the doctors of the future. The Government can and must fix consultant pay now and for the future. Failure to do so will lead consultants to leave the NHS and the country, or towards retirement before their time.

“The loss of this expertise would be devastating for services, patients and the future of the NHS.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Ballot results breakdown:
    - 33,915 consultants were entitled to vote in the ballot;
    - 24,106 votes were cast, 71.08% turnout
    - 20,741 (86%) answered “Yes” to the question: “Are you prepared to take part in strike action?”
    - 3,354 (14%) answered “No” to the question: “Are you prepared to take part in strike action?”
    - 11 spoiled or otherwise invalid voting papers returned.
  2. The ballot took place between Monday 15 May and Tuesday 27 June 2023.
  3. Read the BMA's letter to the Health Secretary.
  4. Read the BMA’s report into the Failings of the Pay Review Process for Doctors and Dentists.