The strike comes amid record patient waiting times and multiple strikes across the economy over the past year, as workers battle a cost of living crisis. The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents consultants, found that:
the pay of consultants in England flatlined at just 14% growth in the 14 years to 2022/23. In stark contrast, the average pay for the UK went up by around 48% in the same period and those in the professions such as law, accountancy, financial services, architects and engineering, enjoyed growth of nearly 80% in wages – almost six times that of senior doctors.
This shows all too clearly that not only has consultant pay has failed to keep up with inflation, but it has also failed to keep up with comparable professions.
The consultants’ strike, only the third time the senior specialist doctors have taken industrial action, began at 6am on Thursday 20 July and will run until 6am on Saturday 22 July.
Disruption is the point
NHS medical director Stephen Powis said:
This could undoubtedly be the most severe impact we have ever seen in the NHS as a result of industrial action, with routine care virtually at a standstill for 48 hours.
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Consultants will not only stop seeing patients themselves, but they won’t be around to provide supervision over the work of junior doctors, which impacts thousands of appointments for patients.
Of course, disruption is the point of strikes. Doctors are doing what they can to signal to NHS management and the government that they’ve had enough. Support on social media was forthcoming. Campaign group Keep Our NHS Public said:
Solidarity with BMA consultants taking strike action today
Without pay restoration staff will continue to leave the NHS
— Keep Our NHS Public (@keepnhspublic) July 20, 2023
Doctor-led campaign organisation Every Doctor also urged more support:
Please support the #ConsultantsStrike.
They're standing up to this government and they're doing it for all of us.
Please RT this if you have their backs!💙💙💙
— EveryDoctor (@EveryDoctorUK) July 20, 2023
One doctor showed his support for colleagues:
look at me, I am the ̶c̶a̶p̶t̶a̶i̶n̶ consultant now
Full support to our consultant colleagues out on strike today as well as to those providing emergency/xmas day style cover. We’ve got the fort while you fight to #FixConsultantPay #ConsultantsStrike 🪧✊🩺 pic.twitter.com/oXlv6o3JGp
— Russell 🏳️🌈 (@Medic_Russell) July 20, 2023
NHS trauma and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Roshana Mehdian pointed out the real terms pay cut consultants have had:
Tomorrow Consultant Doctors Strike
They’ll provide emergency cover
The responsibility of life, limb & livelihood of other humans is the heaviest imaginable weight you can imagine
They do this & more every single day
— Roshana (@RoshanaMN) July 19, 2023
As Dr. Mehdian points out, consultants are calling for a “credible pay offer” after years of below-inflation rises have eroded their pay.
The BMA says take-home pay has fallen by 35% since 2008. The consultants, who earn annual salaries of around £88,000-£119,000, have already announced a second round of strikes for August 24-25.
The Nuffield Trust provided data just last year which shows context for how poorly paid consultants are. Since 2010, pay has fallen in real terms for most NHS professions:
Rishi Sunak has told the doctors to call off their stoppages, and warned that the government will no longer negotiate on higher salaries. However, the BMA called the government’s offer “derisory” and urged members to join their nearest picket line.
BMA consultants’ committee chair Vishal Sharma said consultants were “angry and at rock bottom”, blaming the government. He continued:
The government has had seven months to work with us to take our concerns seriously, to listen to us and to find a way to avoid industrial action.
Ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this action taking place.
Sign of the times
Of course, the consultants strike follows months of disruption as other health staff have also walked out. Junior doctors staged an unprecedented five-day stoppage earlier this month over pay and staff retention, their third walkout since April. Nurses and ambulance staff have also taken strike action, eventually accepting a 5% pay rise in May.
Transport workers are due to strike at the same time as the consultants with staff at 14 train operators walking out on Thursday, Saturday and on July 29. They will be joined on Sunday and on July 25-28 by London Underground staff.
Sunak is facing strike after strike from profession after profession. Does he really expect us to believe that the government is right to underpay working people? It’s the same story for workers across sectors – they’re being screwed over by the government and their respective managements. Thank goodness for trade unions who can push back against the government’s lies and fight for better pay and conditions.
Featured image by Unsplash/Luke Jones
Additional reporting by Agence France-PresseSupport us and go ad-free
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