Consultants accept improved government pay offer but ‘fight not over’

Pay & Contracts
Ben Ireland

Deal includes reform of pay review body, ending current dispute in England.

The BMA consultants committee has accepted the Government’s offer on pay for consultants in England and reform to the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration.

Committee chair Vishal Sharma said the agreement is ‘the end of the beginning’ in consultants’ efforts to restore their pay to 2008 levels, and stressed it is ‘imperative’ for the review body to utilise its independence to prevent future pay disputes.

83 per cent of consultants who took part in the three-week referendum voted in favour of accepting the offer on behalf of the profession.

This brings to an end the dispute with the Government that has continued for over a year, during which consultants have taken unprecedented industrial action which they voted for twice having not walked out on strike for 50 years.

The deal represents an improvement on an offer that was rejected by consultants in January, after further negotiations between the BMA and the Government since then. 

Long-term view

It includes changes to the review body, which the BMA says represents ‘significant progress’ in returning it to its original purpose and independence.

From next year, there will be changes to the way it will appoint members, and the Government will no longer be able to constrain its remit with reference to inflation targets and economic evidence. 

The review body's terms of reference will also be changed to include developments in earnings over time in the context of long-term trends in the wider labour market, comparator professions, and relevant international comparators.

The BMA says these changes mean the review body ‘can no longer ignore the historical losses that doctors have suffered or the fact that countries abroad are competing for UK doctors with the offer of significantly higher salaries'.

The offer also reflects an improvement on the Government’s previous proposal to reform the consultant pay scale.

Dr Vishal Sharma

DDRB independence drive

It will still result in fewer pay points and reduce the time it takes for a consultant to reach the top of the scale, but now includes a 2.85 per cent (£3,000) uplift for those who have been consultants between four and seven years who, under the original offer, received no additional uplift.

This offer is in addition to the 6 per cent pay uplift awarded during the review body's process last summer and is separate to the pay award following the outcome of the review body process for 2024/25. 

Dr Sharma said: ‘The last year has seen consultants take unprecedented strike action in our fight to address our concerns about pay and how the supposedly independent pay review process was operating.

‘After years of repeated real-terms pay cuts, caused by government interference and a failure of the pay review process, consultants have spoken and now clearly feel that this offer is enough of a first step to address our concerns to end the current dispute.

‘However, it’s now imperative that the DDRB utilises its independence to restore doctors’ pay and prevent any further disputes from arising.

It’s now imperative that the DDRB utilises its independence to restore doctors’ pay and prevent any further disputes from arising.

Dr Vishal Sharma


‘We’ve reached this point not just through our tough negotiations with the Government, but thanks to the resolve of consultants, who took the difficult decision to strike, and did so safely and effectively, on multiple occasions, sending a clear message that they would not back down.

‘At the heart of this dispute was our concern for patients and the future sustainability of the NHS. Without valuing doctors, we lose them. Without doctors, we have no NHS and patients suffer.

‘But the fight is not yet over. This is only the end of the beginning and we have some way to go before the pay consultants have lost over the last 15 years has been restored.

‘Therefore, all eyes will be on this year’s pay review round, recommendations from the DDRB and response from the Government.

‘Consultants have shown they are not afraid to act when they need to, and ministers, whether present or future, should be warned that we expect to be treated fairly and if the Government fails to do so in future, we will once again find ourselves in the midst of an industrial dispute.

‘It's in the Government’s and DDRB’s gift to avoid this, starting with the pay round for the coming year.'

BMA consultant members took part in the pay offer referendum between 14 March and 3 April. It had a turnout of 62 per cent. 

Other disputes continue

Consultants and staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors in Wales recently voted in favour of taking industrial action and are due to walkout for 48 hours from Tuesday 16 April.

Consultants in Northern Ireland have been asked to update their details in case a ballot is called.

SAS doctors in Northern Ireland held an indicative ballot in which a majority said they were willing to take industrial action.

SAS doctors in England are considering their next steps after rejecting an initial pay offer from government.

Junior doctors in England remain in dispute with the Government in Westminster and recently extended their mandate for industrial action, including action short of strike. Junior doctor colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland also remain in dispute with their devolved governments.