BMA says Government must offer senior doctors a fair pay rise and stop NHS running on ‘goodwill'

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 2 July 2021

Hospital consultants in England say the Government needs to make exhausted and demoralised doctors a sensible pay offer, of at least 5% - significantly higher than the government’s derisory 1% proposal.

Since March, the BMA has been calling on the Government to deliver a fair uplift for the NHS’s most senior clinicians – consultants - and to tackle the historic below inflation pay “rises” that have led to the estimated value of take-home pay for the average consultant in England fall by 28.6% between 2008/09 and 2019/20. Doctors and members of the public have also written over 4,000 letters to MPs demanding a significant pay uplift for doctors and other healthcare workers as part of the BMA’s Fairness for the Frontline campaign.

Dr Vishal Sharma, deputy chair of BMA consultants committee, said: “The NHS has always relied on the goodwill of its staff, like consultants, to paper over the cracks in an under-funded NHS. This has never been the case more than during the pandemic when consultants have gone above and beyond to care for patients, putting themselves and their families’ lives at risk in the process.

"Consultants are exhausted, suffering from high levels of burnout and are expected to deal with the longest waiting lists on records. It is therefore essential to maintain the goodwill of consultants so that they can help to clear the patient backlog, undertake additional waiting list clinics and take on extra weekend work. Instead, with its suggestion of a pay award of 1%, an effective pay-cut, the Government has left consultants feeling angry and undervalued.

"It is within the gift of Ministers to award NHS staff a fair pay award and to demonstrate that consultants are valued and avoid any potential disputes at a time when extra capacity in the NHS is crucial."

Dr Sharma added: “Consultants are senior doctors who lead teams, mentor and coach juniors, provide highly specialised care and bring a wealth of experience and expertise to patient care. Consultants typically work between an extra 10% and 20% over their contracted hours each week, often unpaid. Many doctors feel a huge sense of obligation to stay on well beyond the end of their shift to help colleagues care for often huge numbers of patients waiting to be treated or be seen.”

Back in March the BMA launched the ‘Fairness for the Frontline’ campaign and revealed findings from work undertaken by BritainThinks on public opinion to a pay rise. 62% of the public think doctors should get a pay rise, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of those supporting a pay rise of 3% or more. The significant pay erosion faced by consultants is compounded by complex, punitive pension taxation rules. Data from the NHS Business Authority shows that since 2008, 21% of doctors have left the NHS, with 72% in a recent BMA survey suggesting they may retire early, with pay cuts and punitive pensions taxation the biggest drivers.

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.