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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Daniel Keane

NHS consultants to be balloted over potential strike action

NHS consultants will be balloted for strike action over pay and pensions, the British Medical Association (BMA) have announced.

In a statement, the BMA said that tens of thousands of senior hospital doctors would vote on potential industrial action on April 17.

A consultative ballot of almost 35,000 consultants conducted by the union found that 86 pr cent would be prepared to take part in strike action, raising the prospect of severe disruption to NHS services.

The BMA said that while a consultative ballot does not provide a legal mandate for strike action, the poll represents “the strength of anger among England’s senior doctors” and it will move to a statutory ballot in April.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said: “In my 25 years in the NHS, I have never seen consultants more demoralised, frustrated and in despair over this Government’s refusal to support the NHS workforce and the patients they serve.

“The Government is refusing to listen to consultants’ concerns, driving many out of the NHS entirely.

“If the Government truly wants to get the NHS back on track and tackle the record waiting lists, it must support the consultant workforce.

“Our position is clear – we will not allow the Government to continue to degrade consultants’ pay and pensions.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “If this is the strength of feeling from consultants now, the worry is that some could be less inclined to cover shifts during the upcoming junior doctors strikes next week, leaving patient care at increased risk.

“While it is positive that the other trade unions have agreed to suspend their planned industrial action to enter negotiations with the government, it is important for all parts of the NHS’s workforce to have the same opportunity to have their concerns around pay understood.

“The danger of not doing this is that the war of attrition between both sides will continue and escalate further, which no one wants.”

Meanwhile, junior doctor members of the BMA will strike for 72 hours from March 13 in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

But industrial action by paramedics, nurses and physiotherapists has been suspended as union officials enter “intensive” talks with Health Secretary Steve Barclay over pay.

Mr Barclay had previously infuriated unions by exclusively opening talks with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), but the Government last week invited health unions to formal pay talks through the NHS staff council, which traditionally sets NHS pay.

Pay for RCN members is covered by the NHS-wide Agenda for Change agreement, which also includes other NHS workers.

NHS Providers’ chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said: “This move by consultants is another worrying development for NHS trust leaders, on top of the looming three-day strike by junior doctors. Strikes by consultants would heap yet more pressure on overstretched services.

“Patient safety and care is the top priority. Trust leaders urge the government and the BMA to find a resolution quickly.”

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