NHS consultants in England have announced two more days of strikes over a long-running pay dispute.
They were already due to strike on Thursday and Friday – and now they will also walk out on 24 and 25 August, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.
The fresh dates were in response to a “derisory” 6% pay rise, said the BMA, a trade union for doctors.
The government said the rise, announced last week, was fair and called the new strike dates disappointing.
During this week’s strike and on the new August dates, consultants will provide so-called “Christmas Day cover”, which includes emergency care and a small amount of routine work.
Last week, the government announced the 6% pay rise for NHS medics just as junior doctors began their own five-day strike, which is due to end on Tuesday.
The BMA said the pay award amounted to “another real-terms pay cut”.
For consultants, the below-inflation pay rise was “nothing short of insulting”, the BMA said, and would actually boost pay by less than 6% once “all elements of pay were considered”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government valued NHS staff, “which is why we’re giving consultants a fair and reasonable pay rise”.
“We’ve made it clear this pay award is not up for negotiation and it’s disappointing the BMA are continuing with disruptive industrial action,” they added.
The 6% pay rise is in line with pay review body recommendations, but far below what doctors are asking for.
Consultant pay has fallen 27% since 2008 once the Retail Price Index (RPI) – one measure of inflation – is taken into account but the BMA says the cut is 35% once changes to tax and pension contributions are factored in. The government said it had acted on the BMA’s request for pension reform, increasing the tax-free threshold on pensions contributions.
Unlike junior doctors, consultants are not asking for full pay restoration in one go. Instead, they want the government to start at least giving pay rises that match inflation.
During 2022, average NHS earnings exceeded £126,000 for consultants – this includes extra pay for additional hours and performance.
Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said the strikes were a last resort and that the union had “been left with no choice”.
He said the government was “devaluing consultants’ expertise” and showing a “lack of regard for the impact this is having on the NHS”.
He said the pay body recommendation of a 6% pay rise showed “the need to reform the pay review system” and that the increase was a “savage real-terms pay cut”.
Dr Sharma warned of further strikes after August, saying consultants were “in this for the long haul”. More than 85% of BMA members backed walkouts in a previous ballot.
“The future of the NHS depends on there being consultants within it, but attacks on their pay will drive them away – from the health service and from the country – with devastating consequences,” he said.
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