UK reaches deal with unions which could end senior doctor strikes

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) -The British government and medical trade unions said on Monday they had reached a deal which could see an end to months of disruptive strike action by senior doctors in England.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the offer would reform the pay structure for senior doctors, known as consultants, from January, reducing the number of pay brackets and the time it takes to reach the top.

This would see a clearer link between pay progression and evidence of skills, competencies and experience, it added.   

The British Medical Association, which represents nearly 200,000 doctors in Britain, said the offer involved a 4.95% investment in pay in addition to a 6% pay increase already awarded for this year.

While the amount each doctor gets will depend on the stage of their career, the BMA said some would receive an additional uplift of as much as 12.8%. Under the offer, consultants will reach the top of the pay scale five years sooner than now, it added.

“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,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

Sunak has made cutting NHS patient waiting lists one of his top priorities ahead of an election expected next year. More than 7.8 million people in England are on a waiting list for hospital treatment and more than a million appointments have been rescheduled by strike action.

A separate long-running dispute with junior doctors over pay remains ongoing.

The BMA and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) will put the offer to their members for a vote in the coming weeks, with no further strike action to be called during that time.

“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,” Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said in a statement.

The HCSA said that it had concerns over some details of the package and, while it would put the offer to a vote, it would not take a formal position on whether its members should accept.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by William James and Christina Fincher)