UK government reaches a pay deal with senior doctors that could end disruptive strikes
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government reached a deal with senior doctors in England that could potentially end a series of disruptive strikes, officials said Monday.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it submitted a pay offer to doctors’ unions after weeks of talks, and union leaders agreed to put the proposal to their members for a vote.
Health officials said the breakthrough was a huge relief, though results from the union votes won’t be known until January.
The British Medical Association said the government’s offer meant senior doctors will start to receive extra income next year, on top of a 6 per cent pay increase already awarded for 2023 to 2024. The doctors’ union said the government was investing 4.95 per cent more in salaries for senior doctors, though the amount each doctor will get depends on their contracts.
Thousands of senior physicians walked off the job for 48-hour periods earlier this year to demand better pay and working conditions from the government, causing major disruptions at hospitals across England.
Those strikes came on top of similar industrial actions by junior doctors, nurses and other health workers who organised their own strikes to obtain pay raises amid the UK’s soaring inflation and cost-of-living crisis.
Senior doctors said their pay has shrunk by a third in real terms over the past 14 years.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the new offer was a “fair deal” for senior doctors and will be good news for patients.
This year’s strike actions have put further pressure on Britain’s under-funded and under-staffed National Health Service, leading to the postponement of more than 1 million hospital appointments. The disruption also cost the NHS some 1.4 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) in lost income and staff coverage, according to health executives.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the progress in pay negotiations was welcome news, especially because demand for hospital care always surges in winter.
“This agreement is a critical first step, and we now need all parties to continue to work together to find a solution to remaining pay disputes as soon as possible,” she said.
Government officials earlier reached pay deals with nurses and other health workers, but they are still negotiating with doctors in the early stages of their careers over pay.