Hospital consultants will strike for two days next month if they vote in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay, their union has announced.
The British Medical Association 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’.
Consultants would only provide ‘Christmas Day cover’, meaning they will deliver emergency services but not routine care.
NHS Providers, which represents trusts, warned of a ‘challenging summer’, noting the industrial action will be disruptive for patients and ‘ring alarm bells’ for health bosses.
It comes as junior doctors prepare to walk out for three days from Wednesday, in their third round of industrial action this year.
The doctors’ union BMA warned strikes by consultants would be far more damaging than the recent junior doctor walk-outs (pictured are junior doctors picketing outside Southend University Hospital on April 14)
It will see the medics withdraw all care, including A&E, for 72 hours from 7am. Consultants will be paid up to £250 an hour to cover for their junior colleagues.
The consultants’ ballot over their pay row with government does not close until June 27.
But the BMA said it is announcing potential strike dates now to give hospitals time to reschedule appointments and prioritise the most urgent cases.
This is because of the ‘unique position’ of consultants as the NHS’s most senior clinicians, whose roles cannot be covered by other staff, it added.
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.
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.
‘We know consultants do not take decisions around industrial action lightly, but this isn’t just about pay – it’s about protecting the future of the NHS.
‘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.’
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘The threat of more strikes for an overstretched NHS in the coming weeks will ring alarm bells for trust leaders up and down the country.
‘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 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.
‘But with more BMA junior doctor strikes also on the horizon, this looks to be a very challenging summer for the NHS.
‘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.’
Steve Barclay today said there needs to be ‘movement on both sides’ amid the dispute between the Government and junior doctors.
The health secretary said the demand for a 35 per cent pay rise was ‘unreasonable’ and could ‘move to 49 per cent if you added in next year’.
He insisted the Government’s door remains open, but accused the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee of refusing to budge from its 35 per cent pay demand, despite bringing an intermediary to negotiations.
More than half a million NHS appointments in England have been cancelled due to health service strikes since December, official figures show
Junior doctors on the Picket line outside The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London on April 14, 2023
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: ‘With junior doctor pay having eroded by 26 per cent in the last 15 years, and with double digit inflation this year, the 5 per cent offer the Government made would have amounted to yet more pay cuts.
‘That is in no way a fair or reasonable offer and will not help stem the exodus of junior doctors from the NHS.
‘The Health Secretary can come to us with a credible offer at any time – preventing any future strike action sits firmly within the gift of the Government.’
The consultant’s ballot closes on June 27.
NHS trusts could face significant disruption during junior doctor strikes after hundreds of senior medics threatened not to provide cover for colleagues on picket lines.
More than 800 hospital consultants in London have said they will not provide cover for striking junior doctors unless their employers agree to pay a higher overtime rate set by the BMA.
A new letter, signed by 8.7 per cent of London’s consultants, states some NHS trusts outside of the capital have agreed to pay the higher rate, the Health Service Journal reported.
The BMA rate card says medics should be paid up to £250 an hour to provide overtime, with this highest rate for nights.