‘Repeatedly devalued’: Why senior doctors have voted for strike action

Consultants will seek work elsewhere, warns BMA

Doctors strike over pay NHS

Senior doctors in England have voted by 86% in favour of taking industrial action over pay in a ballot by the British Medical Association (BMA) of over 24,000 consultants.

Since 2008/2009, their take-home pay has fallen by 35%, and as BMA consultants committee chair, Dr Vishal Sharma, put it, “Consultants are not worth a third less than we were 15 years ago and have had enough.”

Consultants are ‘furious’ about being ‘repeatedly devalued by Government’, Dr Sharma said after the union reported that talks between the government and BMA negotiators had broken down when the government offered a real-terms pay cut, as well as failing to fully commit to restore the review body’s independence.

Senior doctors are asking for a pay rise that will match inflation, as supposed to the full pay restoration that junior doctors are seeking. The strikes will not go ahead if the government can present a credible offer the union can put to its members.  

However commentators have been asking where Steve Barclay the health secretary is, as the NHS already faces the longest single walkout in its history next month when junior doctors go on strike for 5-days.

The BMA stressed that the dispute is about ‘fairness’ and ensuring a pay settlement that begins to reverse the real-terms pay decline suffered across public sector workforces over the last decade.

“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,” said Dr Sharma.

The Telegraph chose to focus on the £100,000 senior doctors’ salaries this morning, but Eamonn Holmes on GB News highlighted the irony that this splash on the Telegraph’s front page was presented next to a picture of the Thames Water CEO, who’s salary is £1.6 million a year, posing the question of who we choose to value and how this is reflected in their salary.

Dr Sharma warned that consultants will seek careers elsewhere, where health workers are paid better and where they feel more valued, if their pay is not improved.

“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,” said Sharma.

“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.”

In an interview on LBC, NHS Dr. Phillip Hammond further emphasised that NHS workers’ disputes are about feeling respected and valued in a hugely challenging and crucial profession.

“We don’t give nurses and doctors credit for the complexity, difficulty, and stress of their job,” said Hammond.

“It’s not just about pay and conditions but that’s the only thing that can be quickly fixed, they want to feel worth a decent amount, and they can earn similar amounts of money not just in other jobs but abroad.”

He added: “A certain amount of humility is needed from our health leaders.”  

Senior doctors are set to strike on 20 and 21 July for a 48-hour walkout, coming just after the strike by junior doctors which ends on 18 July.

The strike by senior doctors would take the form of Christmas Day cover which will mean most routine and elective services will be cancelled whilst full emergency cover remains in place.

Early plans to manage patient lists and prioritise urgent patient care has been but in place, the union has stressed.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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