Hospital consultants in England have voted in favour of taking strike action over their pay dispute with the government, the British Medical Association has announced.
More than 24,000 consultants voted in the BMA’s ballot, representing a 71 per cent turnout, with 86 per cent saying they were prepared to strike.
Strike days have been set for 20 and 21 July (Thursday and Friday), if a pay deal cannot be reached before then. This comes shortly after a five day walk out by junior doctors, which is planned from 13 to 18 July (Thursday to Tuesday) which is thought to be the longest period of strike action by NHS staff.
The BMA said it would provide “Christmas Day cover”, meaning members would work to keep minimal emergency services open but not elective care.
The union has previously cited real-terms cuts to consultants’ pay, pensions and reforming the NHS pay review body process as some of the reasons for balloting. It says pay has fallen in real-terms by 35 per cent since 2008.
Vishal Sharma, the BMA’s consultants committee chair, said: “We know consultants don’t take the decision around industrial action lightly, but this vote shows how furious they are at being repeatedly devalued by government. Consultants are not worth a third less than we were 15 years ago and have had enough.
Dr Sharma said the government has six weeks to “come to the table, with a fair and reasonable proposal that can prevent any industrial action from having to take place”.
Earlier today, the Royal College of Nursing confirmed it had failed to reach the 50 per cent turnout threshold needed to continue its strike action, which has effectively ended the long-running dispute for Agenda for Change staff.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the news of consultants voting to take strike action was “disappointing”.
She added: “Strikes are hugely disruptive for patients and put pressure on other NHS staff. We’ve been engaging with the BMA consultants committee on their concerns already and stand ready to open talks again. We urge them to come to the negotiating table rather than proceeding with their proposed strike dates.
“We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.”
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the “double whammy” of strikes by consultants and junior doctors will be a “huge risk for the NHS to manage”.
He added: “These strikes don’t have to go ahead. There’s still time for the government and the doctors’ unions to settle their differences and find a way through.”