Rishi Sunak reaches pay deal to end consultants strikes as he vows to cut NHS wait times

Rishi Sunak reaches pay deal to end consultants strikes as he vows to cut NHS wait times
Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 27/11/2023

- 13:00

Updated: 27/11/2023

- 13:48

In a statement, Rishi Sunak said that bringing an end to 'damaging strike action' is 'vitally important' to cut waiting lists

The Government has reached a deal with medical unions in England in order to pave the way to end consultants' strikes and cut waiting lists.

Talks were opened with the British Medical Association (BMA) and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) last month, with the aim of finding a "fair and reasonable" way forward, the Government said.

The offer is centred around modernising consultants’ pay structure by reducing the number of pay points and the time it takes to reach the top.

New pay progression arrangements will be introduced, which the Government said will "ensure there is a clearer link between pay progression and evidence of skills, competencies and experience".

WATCH: GB News speaks to a nurse during NHS strike action

The changes will take effect from January 2024.

In a statement, Sunak said: "Ending damaging strike action in the NHS is vitally important if we want to continue making progress towards cutting waiting lists while making sure patients get the care they deserve.

“This is a fair deal for consultants who will benefit from major reform to their contract, it is fair for taxpayers because it will not risk our ongoing work to tackle inflation, and most importantly it is a good deal for patients to see the end of consultant industrial action.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins added: “I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and am pleased that we have been able to make this fair and reasonable offer after weeks of constructive negotiations.

“If accepted, it will modernise pay structures, directly addressing gender pay issues in the NHS. It will also enhance consultants’ parental leave options.

“Putting an end to this strike action will support our efforts to bring down waiting lists and offer patients the highest quality care.”

The BMA and the HCSA will put this offer to their members for a vote in the coming weeks. No further strike action will be called while members are being consulted.

The BMA said the offer constituted a 4.95 per cent “investment in pay” on top of the 6 per cent pay rise already awarded this year.

The majority of consultants will receive an extra rise of up to 12.8 per cent depending on their pay point, the BMA said, adding this was separate to any pay award recommended by the pay review body.

The union said if its members vote to accept the deal, the changes will be applicable from January 2024, but will be paid retrospectively in April 2024.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said: “We are pleased that after a month of intense talks and more than six months of strike action we never wanted to take, we have now got an offer we can put to members.

"It is a huge shame that it has needed consultants to take industrial action to get the Government to this point when we called for talks many months ago.

“The 4.95 per cent investment and much-needed changes to the pay scale system comes after we successfully persuaded the Government to reform the punitive pension taxation laws earlier this year, and we also now have commitments to reforming the pay review process, which has been a key ask from the profession throughout our dispute.

"Only by restoring the independence of this process can we hope to restore consultant pay over the coming years.

“How each consultant will benefit will depend on their individual circumstances, and we will be providing them with as much detail as we can, so they are able to look carefully through the details to help them decide whether to accept the offer."

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