Senior doctors in England will begin voting today (May 15) whether to strike in the ongoing dispute over pay in the NHS.
Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) consultants committee Dr Vishal Sharma said talks had been held with the government in a bid to resolve the long-running row, but pay talks remain in deadlock.
As the ballot for industrial action by consultants in England opened today, Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said:
“We have spent the last few weeks in talks with the Government, working right up to the last minute to secure a solution to address the huge loss in pay experienced by consultants in England. We have seen our take-home pay decline by 35% since 2008/9 and this is even before the impact of this year’s soaring inflation has been considered. As a result of this, consultants are now effectively working four months of the year for free.
“Even as late as this weekend, we remained hopeful that we would secure a pay offer that went some way toward making up for the decline we have seen. Unfortunately however, given that inflation remains in double digits, the final offer from Government represented yet another real-terms pay cut. On the back of 15 years of our pay declining, we simply could not accept a deal that continued this downward trend and have been left with no option but to proceed today with the ballot for industrial action.
“No consultant wants to take industrial action. We went into these talks in a spirit of good will and were grateful for the constructive manner in which they were conducted by Government officials. However, ultimately the Government made a political choice to cut our pay again this year and unless we can secure a commitment that the Government will take the necessary steps to restore our pay over the long term, we simply cannot accept an offer that sees our pay fall even further.
“Consultants are not worth a third less than they were 15 years ago. With elective waiting lists standing at 7.3 million, we cannot afford to lose any more highly experienced clinicians who are leaving or taking breaks from the NHS due to pay erosion. NHS patients deserve better than an understaffed health service, and NHS staff deserve better than a Government which does not recognise their worth at a time of global shortages of skilled healthcare professionals.
“The ballot is open from today to 27 June and we are urging members to vote yes. In the meantime our door remains open for the Government to continue talks and they can still avert industrial action by coming back to us with a reasonable offer.”