Consultant pay has fallen behind the likes of lawyers, architects and financial advisers over the last 14 years as strikes begin

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Thursday 20 July 2023

The BMA has analysed a range of publicly available NHS and Government data which reveals that the pay of consultants in England flatlined at just 14% growth in the 14 years to 2022/23. In stark contrast, the average pay for the UK went up by around 48% in the same period and those in the professions such as such as law, accountancy, financial services, architects and engineering, enjoyed growth of nearly 80% in wages -  almost six times that of senior doctors. This shows all too clearly that not only has consultant pay has failed to keep up with inflation, but it has also failed to keep up with comparable professions.

It was workers in finance and business services roles  - financial services, insurance, pension management – which according to the BMA’s analysis of the Office For National Statistics Average Weekly Earnings who have seen the biggest increase in their wages since 2008/09, at 78%.

Using data such as this, together with NHS Staff Earnings Estimates, the BMA is able to demonstrate the true extent of the fall in value of the wages of the country’s most senior doctors. Whilst professions such as accountants, management consultants, architects and scientific engineers have seen their salaries rise unadjusted for inflation, consultants have seen just a 14% rate of growth, in cash terms. The Chair of the BMA Consultants Committee, Dr Vishal Sharma said:

“This dispute is not just about one year’s pay settlement, it is about the reality of 14 years of consultant pay falling behind, about our a loss in our pay in real terms of 35% and the broken pay review system that has allowed this to happen. There is absolutely no justification for the wages of some of the country’s most senior doctors to not have kept pace with those of comparable professions. Last week the Prime Minister described the pay review body’s 6% pay uplift as a 'significant pay award, one of the most significant we've had in decades,' and yet our profession languishes so far behind tens of thousands of other workers in terms of our pay and working conditions. Is it any wonder that nearly 90% of consultants in England voted in favour of industrial action when we see data like this and when the government refuses to discuss what has happened to our pay over the last 14 years? There can be no clearer demonstration of how broken the process is when the pay review body allowed this to happen.

“Consultants will stand on the picket lines today because we are angry and at rock bottom. We never wanted to be forced into taking this huge step. The Government has had seven months to work with us to take our concerns seriously, to listen to us and to find a way to avoid industrial action. Ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this action taking place.

“This week, I wrote to the Health Secretary and made it clear that as despite us engaging constructively with his officials, it is abundantly clear that the blockage to reaching an agreement lies firmly with Ministers. Yesterday, he told the media he hugely values our work.  Meeting with us just once in seven months and not at all since our 86% of consultants voted to strike in our ballot, is not a Health Minister who cares about consultants, or our patients. If he did, he’s be getting back round the table with us. With the first round of industrial action starting and a second planned on 24 and 25 August; now is the time to show he cares.  

“We will be on the picket lines today, knowing our pay has flatlined so disastrously, knowing we are undervalued and overworked but also knowing that we remain willing to talk to Steve Barclay as he has the power to halt the strike action by presenting us with a credible offer that we put to our members. This government is failing us, failing patients and failing to see Ministers have the ability to stop the crisis unfolding in front of their eyes.”


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.  

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