Authorities officers and docs’ leaders are holding secret talks with the purpose of ending strikes by hospital consultants earlier than the beginning of the NHS’s winter disaster.
In a exceptional transfer, the deal underneath dialogue would give consultants in England a hefty additional pay rise for this yr in return for calling off their stoppages. That’s regardless of Rishi Sunak’s earlier insistence that he wouldn’t revisit the 6% award he described as ultimate.
Below the deal, if agreed, the NHS’s 34,600 consultants would obtain an additional 6% enhance for 2023-24 on prime of the 6% they’ve already had.
The additional 6% could be within the type of a one-off award slightly than a everlasting enhance of their pay. Comparable affords helped to influence nurses, ambulance staff and different NHS employees to name off their strikes within the spring.
The Division of Well being and Social Care (DHSC) and the British Medical Affiliation (BMA) are eager to resolve the dispute, during which consultants have staged 9 days of strike motion since July.
The DHSC hopes an settlement with the consultants would assist to isolate their rather more militant junior physician colleagues, who’ve threatened to maintain on placing till the following basic election, anticipated on the finish of 2024, in pursuit of a 35% pay rise.
An unprecedented wave of strikes by docs, nurses and different NHS personnel since December has already pressured providers to cancel 1.2m outpatient appointments and operations.
NHS leaders say the strikes, particularly these involving docs, have to date price the service about £1.5bn, primarily the results of paying consultants to cowl shifts by placing junior docs.
The BMA’s consultants committee is speaking to the DHSC amid rising unease amongst consultants that their strikes are damaging the NHS and disrupting sufferers’ care, together with most cancers operations and deliberate caesarean sections.
Many consultants imagine that holding additional stoppages throughout the winter would add to the massive pressure the service at all times comes underneath throughout the chilly months and go away hospitals worryingly understaffed.
Hopes are rising that the DHSC will probably be ready again the 6% one-off award so as to break the deadlock between it and the BMA as a result of a lot of the additional cash consultants would obtain consequently would go straight again to the Treasury, leaving them with about £250 a month after tax.
Sunak and the well being secretary, Steve Barclay, must clarify, nonetheless, how giving consultants a 12% uplift squared with their earlier statements that 6% was ultimate.
The talks have additionally centred on consultants being paid extra generously for doing weekend and in a single day shifts, to assist overcome the NHS’s lack of docs and scale back its reliance on locum medics; modifications to the scientific excellence awards consultants obtain; and extra time for non-clinical duties. The BMA has additionally requested the federal government to decide to restoring the independence of the Assessment Physique on Medical doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, which advises ministers on pay.
There’s “very cautious optimism” amongst NHS England and hospital bosses, who’re determined for strikes by consultants and junior docs to finish, that the consultants’ dispute will be resolved.
Final week the BMA mentioned it could not name any new strikes by consultants for 4 weeks to create a respiratory area during which significant talks might happen. It additionally provided to let the impartial Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) oversee any negotiations.
It additionally used a letter to the prime minister on 19 September to make clear that consultants, regardless of having skilled “pay erosion” of 35% since 2008, would settle for a settlement of about 12% for this yr, the primary time it had clarified the scale of the rise consultants are in search of.
A BMA spokesperson mentioned: “We don’t recognise this proposal [for a 6% one-off award], nor any description of detailed talks on pay. We do, because the BMA, in fact stay in frequent contact with authorities officers from completely different departments to debate varied points.
“The consultants committee management wrote to the prime minister virtually two weeks in the past inviting the federal government to formal pay talks, and we’re awaiting a response.
“With no new strike dates presently introduced for consultants in England we’ve been clear that the federal government has till 3 November to fulfill with us formally, and agree a suggestion we will put ahead to our marketing consultant members, so as to stop additional.”
A DHSC spokesperson mentioned: “We’re giving docs a good and affordable pay rise, as really useful by the impartial pay evaluate physique, with [junior] docs in coaching receiving a median enhance of round 8.8% – which is above what most in the private and non-private sectors are receiving – and consultants receiving a 6% pay rise.
“We now have obtained a letter from the BMA proposing talks and can reply in the end.”