Hospital consultants in England will strike for two days next month if they vote in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay, it has been announced.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said its members will walk out on July 20 and 21 if the Government continues to “refuse to come forward with a credible pay offer”.
If the strikes go ahead, consultants will provide Christmas Day cover, meaning they will continue to provide all emergency services but routine services will need to be paused.
Dr Vishal Sharma, who chairs the BMA consultants committee, said: “Strike action is not inevitable and it is well within the Government’s gift to present us with a reasonable offer that would stop industrial action in its tracks.
“But if this isn’t forthcoming, we are committed to action that is effective and that is safe.
“As the most senior and experienced doctors working in hospitals, no-one can cover for consultants – and that’s why we’re giving our members, our colleagues and employers lengthy time to prepare, even ahead of our ballot closing.
“That way they can manage their lists and prioritise those patients most in need of care. We are also reiterating that any strike action will still deliver Christmas Day levels of care – meaning emergency departments will still be open and staffed with consultants.
“If we sit by and accept further real-terms pay cuts, we will continue to lose more of our most senior and experienced clinicians at a time when the NHS and patients need them most.
“We want to create an environment in the NHS that consultants want to work in and that junior doctors can see their future in. Industrial action is a last resort, but there is simply no justification for consultants today being valued a third less than they were 15 years ago.
“The Government now has six weeks to come back to the table with a fair and reasonable proposal that can prevent any industrial action from having to take place.”
Junior doctors in England are set to stage a 72-hour walkout from June 14 in the same dispute.
“The proposed dates next month follow the junior doctors’ planned three-day walkout next week, which means trusts will have little time to recover between the two.
“Although all emergency services would still be provided during this walkout, inevitably, routine services would need to be put on hold, causing further disruption to patient care.
“We understand why hospital consultants feel they’ve been pushed to take this action, including the need for a pay rise in line with inflation.
“Trust leaders will do everything in their power to mitigate against the impact of these strikes on patients as providing safe, high-quality care remains their top priority.
“The only way to resolve these ongoing disputes is for both sides – the unions and the Government – to sit down and talk about pay as soon as possible, and in good faith.”
The BMA stressed the consultants’ dispute was different to the one involving junior doctors as they were on different contracts.
The junior doctors’ dispute and action is overseen by the BMA’s junior doctors committee. The consultants’ dispute and ballot is overseen by the BMA’s consultants committee.
Negotiations with Government and representatives from these two groups are separate.
Junior doctors in England are asking for full pay restoration to make up for 26% pay cuts since 2008, according to the BMA, while consultants’ take-home pay in England is said to have fallen by 35% in the last 15 years.
The BMA is demanding the end of this “continual pay erosion” and that the Government must fix pay now and for retirement, beginning with agreement with the BMA on the pay award for 2023/24 and a commitment to a mechanism to redress the long-term reduction in consultant pay.