Consultants in England today begin two more days of industrial action, and have announced further strike dates in October, demonstrating their commitment to ensuring the Government acts to fix consultant pay in order to retain the NHS’s most experienced clinicians.
This week’s strikes start at 7am today (Thursday) and end at 7am on Saturday, and consultants are also set to take more strike action on 19th and 20th September. In the absence of any progress in discussions with Government, they will now also strike on 2nd, 3rd and 4th October – the longest period of action by consultants so far.
The BMA’s consultants committee is announcing the action well in advance to give colleagues and employers plenty of notice, and as with this week’s and previous strikes, consultants will provide Christmas Day cover, meaning emergency services will continue to run.
Consultants have seen their take-home pay fall by more than a third since 2008/09, and the BMA’s consultants committee is urging the Government to present a credible offer that puts an end to these pay cuts and a commits to reforming the pay review body process so that it can be truly independent in reviewing consultant pay and begin addressing these historic losses. Yet the Government once again last month imposed another real-terms pay cut on consultants with its 6% uplift.
Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:
“No consultant wants to be striking and we head out to picket lines today with heavy hearts. We would much rather be inside the hospital seeing our patients. But we cannot sit by and watch passively as we are persistently devalued, undermined and forced to watch colleagues leave – much to the detriment of the NHS and patients.
“First the Prime Minister blamed COVID and now he attempts to scapegoat doctors for his failure to bring down waiting lists. The reality however is that we had record waiting lists before the pandemic and before any periods of industrial action, and they were due to the Government’s failure to properly invest in the NHS and its staff. The waiting lists can only be brought down by recruiting and retaining doctors. This starts with valuing them properly – not by subjecting them to further real-terms pay cuts, as the Government did last month.
“By refusing to talk to us – and it’s now been 150 days since the Health Secretary met with us – it just shows that the Government is not serious about the NHS, its workforce or patients.
“Our message to the Prime Minister is that we are serious about protecting the consultant workforce and thereby the NHS and patients. We are striking today, and will do so again in September and October, but the Prime Minister has the power to avert any further action at all, by getting around the table and presenting us with a credible offer.
“As Government ministers gather in Manchester in the first week of October wouldn’t Mr Sunak rather be telling his colleagues and the public that he has resolved this dispute by offering consultants a deal that truly values the work we do, rather than apologising and making excuses for why he’s forced us out on strike once more?
“Consultants are clear that they’re prepared to take regular action and politicians must be left in no doubt that our dispute will not go away simply because they refuse to negotiate. We will not be ignored.”
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.